A Reduction of Tears

Nellie Stover Harper, March 23, 1920 – May 7, 1968

Sorrow has no shelf life.

There is, however, a difference between the jagged edges of fresh grief and the patina of an old grief worn smooth like a faded flannel shirt. The splash of hot tears and spasms of sobs wind down, and eventually become sighs and wistful smiles.

A reduction, in cooking terminology, uses heat and evaporation to get the essential flavors, the best bits, into a thicker base.

Grief–the healthy kind–can make a reduction of our tears, concentrating those salty drops into a savory flavoring.  Cardamom, by itself, is sharp and bitter, pungent and overwhelming. Reduced with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and black tea, it becomes a vital ingredient in chai.
Revelation (last book of the Bible) promises a day when God will wipe away all the tears and Psalm 56 speaks of God storing tears in a bottle.  

I know that God sees our tears.  And if he knows the hairs on our head, surely He knows every tear that falls. 
I know that God–the One who Redeems–transforms our sorrows, giving us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning. 

I imagine that the oil of joy is a reduction of our tears, redeeming our sorrows and transforming them into praise. He gave the tears; one day we will offer them back to Him.

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.


More thoughts on grief.

Some letters my mom wrote.


6 thoughts on “A Reduction of Tears

  1. So, Carol, God knew I needed to read this today. My dad went to be with the Lord at 9:00 this morning. I have been with him for the past twenty-some hours, from 5 in the morning yesterday, when I raced to the hospital where he’d been transported, to tell them he had a Do Not Resuscitate Order; driving him back to his place in my car, spending the day with him and my sister while we waited for the hospice nurse to come, to all night with him last night, feeding him morphine and Ativan. I am exhausted, getting ready to go thru photo albums for a slide show for his memorial service next Saturday (I’m thinking it will be therapeutic). But stopping and reading this–this is God’s gift to me for the day. It gives me hope for the upcoming days. Thank you.

  2. Very true…..there are different flavors to grief as the years begin to pass by.  From the heartwrenching sobs to the quiet tears and everything in between.  Mothers certainly impact our lives, don’t they?Thanks for sharing, Carol….Blessings,Tammy ~@~

  3. That is so true, Carol. Thanks for posting it.. One thing she forgot: our tears are already in God’s bottle.He keeps our tears in a bottle – this is in Psalms but I don’t know which one. This very  subject came up in last week’s Bible Study.

  4. cyber hugs to you… I know the pain must never really go away but what beautiful words you have written here.part of the funeral hymns sung in the Orthodox Church:”What earthly sweetness remains unmixed with grief? What glory stands immutable on the earth? All things are but feeble shadows, all things are most deluding dreams, yet one moment only, and death shall supplant them all. But in the light of Thy countenance, 0 Christ, and in the sweetness of Thy beauty, give rest to her whom Thou hast chosen, for as much as Thou lovest mankind.”May Nellie’s memory be eternal!

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