Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Present (i.e. “gift”)

A few minutes ago I returned from a birthday party where the birthday girl, who turned fifty this week, received a few presents.

But it was the present I noticed as I walked to, and then again from, her party that caught my attention.  Curiously, the gift was marked by the sounds of intense crying coming from a modest little house on the north side of the road.

You see, the mother of one of my Papua New Guinean co-workers died yesterday morning and, true to cultural form, once the body was brought to her son’s house this evening the mourners also arrived.  And so began the haus krai (crying house).

Walking home after the party, the haunting groans and wailing still emanating from the house, as they likely will throughout the night and into tomorrow, my husband and I discussed the merits of such a tradition.  “I couldn’t make myself cry like that,” he said. 

I agreed.  “It just seems so forced,” was my observation.  “I’m not saying it’s wrong, or that it’s not healthy, but ...”

“Well, sure.  In our culture we stifle our emotion.” He paused to consider.  “But really, I guess the haus krai is not for the attending mourners.  It’s for the bereaved.”

I had a sudden realisation.  It’s a gift to them,” I said.

As westerners, I don’t think we typically mourn very well.  Why is it that we prefer to suppress our feelings than wear them for all to see?  Why is it we’d rather hide our tears than share them?  Why is it so difficult for us to accept the gifts of genuine empathy and compassion?

Just as I discovered a few years ago at another haus krai I attended, though for me it is still somewhat awkward, in some ways this practice goes a long way toward fulfilling the Biblical mandate to “rejoice with those who rejoice [and] mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)


Tears can be a beautiful, and healing, gift.

“[The God of all healing counsel] comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4, The Message

Five Minute Friday
This post written as part of Lisa-Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday challenge.


  1. What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing.

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by. :)

  2. Interestingly, in Nigeria the custom is the opposite. The Anglican Bishop's wife died right before we arrived. His church did not come to pick us up to take to his church one evening, with no explanation. It seems it was their tradition to conceal it - in particular from our host, who was putting on a leadership conference in the next few days. When we did visit to pay our respects a week later (when we were informed), he explained that the culture was different from America (where you share everything immediately and post it on the Internet.) His intent was to not burden our host with the news until after his conference responsibilities were fulfilled. There was no wailing. Instead, we were served sparkling cider and a traditional squash thing. And he explained that we, the guests, do not tell him why we are there, he, the host, tells us why we have come. -Brad

    1. Wow. That is interesting, Brad. Thanks for sharing another cultural experience! I know we post everything on the 'net (Facebook, etc.) for the world to see, and we get lots of "I'm so sorry"s in return, but it's safe, you know? Hiding behind a computer screen where we don't have to let other people truly see us raw. Just interesting to consider. Thanks for visiting!

  3. I agree, tears can be a beautiful thing. It's sad that our culture many times teaches us to suppress our emotions. Thank you for sharing this story.i always appreciate learning about other cultures traditions.
    Thank you too for stopping by my place yesterday.
    Blessings to you,


We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

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(Updated 13 April 2013)