Thursday, June 09, 2016

Lei and Ukelele

I'm reading Mikael Niemi's Popular Music from Vittula again, with its hilarious and often moving "magical realism" that dresses hard truths in colorful clothes. Here's an excerpt about a funeral in Pajala attended by far-flung relatives.
As usual at Tornedalen heroic burials, the preachers spoke mostly about Hell. They described in minute detail the endlessly burning charcoal stack where sinners and heretics were fried like pork in tar in the Devil’s red-hot skillet, while he prodded them with his trident to bring out the juices. The congregation cowered in their pews, and the old lady’s daughters, especially, shed many a crocodile tear into their permanent waves and fashionable dresses, while the men who had married into the family shuffled uneasily with their hardened hearts. But here was an opportunity to sow the seeds of penitence and mercy over almost all the globe, and it would have been unpardonable not to try. 
(Read a longer excerpt here.)
Have you had any unusual funerals in your family? One of the more remarkable in mine was for an uncle I'll call Fred. Born "outside the faith," Fred was married several times, lastly to a widow in the OALC.  They had two happy years together before Fred's heart gave out. His children hardly knew him, having become alienated over religion, and did not attend the funeral. The wife of Fred's son, however, came all the way from Hawai'i to bring flowers and music as offerings.


The preacher said sorry, no. Not wanted. Take them away.

But you see, in Hawai'ian tradition, it is a grave error to refuse a lei. An insult. It isn't done.

Who would refuse a lei?

The poor woman, shocked, never quite recovered, and told the story many times. It became a rune, a Zen koan, an enigma.

Who would refuse a lei?

Naturally, the OALC folks there tell it differently. They remember a lady from Hawai'i, but say nothing of a lei or a ukelele. Only that she cried. That she had never heard of the living Christianity. That she made repentance.

But sadly, it didn't stick, and soon after, she died (unsaid but implied, she went to hell).

Oh, you lovely relations, uncles, aunts, cousins.

Next time, if there is a next time, please accept the lei.

Because the spirit of aloha is grace, and vice versa, against which nobody should go. Grace is where it's at. It's where we want to be.

4 comments:

  1. While growing up I used to hear stories that if the pallbearers claimed that someone's coffin was heavy, it meant that they were going to hell as they must have been weighted down with un-repented sin. So if some one died who had not been on the straight and narrow path then the pallbearers would be interrogated by the curious with regards to their perceptions of the weight of the coffin. (I'm not making it up!) In general funerals were morbid affairs and outsiders and strays would be subtly watched to see if the sermon or the death would move them towards repentance. As I grew up I began to find it odd that those who considered themselves to be in the only true church had so much trepidation about dying. Old AP

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    1. Philippians 3:13-14

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  2. Once I went to a funeral of a 17 year old boy who tragically died in a car accident. It was so sad. During the funeral, an old lady (his grandmother?) stood up and shouted, "He's in hell!" and sat down.

    --Anonymous

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  3. “Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” Martin Luther Old AP

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