Posted by: pendrops | October 23, 2006

these hourly bells


Last Monday, I sat in a funeral service, paying my respects to a mother and a daughter I had never met. Throughout the hour-long memorial, tears cascaded down my face and my thoughts swirled. I looked at the husband of this woman, the father of this daughter, and wondered how he could even breathe. I slid my feet into his shoes and could only imagine that I would be lying on the floor in a heaving heap of unbelief. I shook my head and asked why, resolving that tragedies like this were mysteries I would never understand.

At the same time, I was a little embarrassed about my outward grieving. I didn’t even know these people, but still found myself deeply mourning their sudden, young deaths. And then I remembered the Meditations of 17th century writer John Donne.

“…these hourly bells tell me of so many funerals of men like me…therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…”

Donne wrote these words during a time plagued with rampant disease and death. The funeral bells of nearby churches clanged constantly, the reality of mortality inspiring his reflections. Four hundred years later, they linger in my heart, reminding me that it is right to weep, to mourn, to care. And it’s right because, in a way I don’t completely grasp, these precious lives were connected to mine.

In the past week, this revelation has re-sensitized me to world catastrophes, national tragedies, and my neighbor’s heartache. A flood of truth has washed over me and in the deluge I have found a sweetness in sorrow, a sorrow that I shared with a room full of strangers and mourners last week. I discovered that it is a blessing to grieve, not just so that I may receive comfort (Matt. 5:4). But because in grieving for the passing of a stranger, I tenderize my heart and remember the human-ness that binds us all.



  1. Thank you for expressing so well what I could not quite pull from my heart and mind.

  2. Wow.

  3. I’m crying reading your comment. I knew Jennifer when she worked here in Louisville, Ky while Brad, her husband, attended bible college. She was such a good friend and I miss her so much. I still remember the excitment in her voice when Brad graduated and received his first youth pastor job and then more excitement when she realized she was pregnant with Hannah. She will be missed so much!

  4. Thank you so much for writing into words the pain I feel and the pain everyone has felt with me. I will be printing this off for Sarah to read when she gets older. Thank you for giving me this gift of your words I truly will cherish it for years to come.

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