New Orleans, LA, 2019

The Jewelry We Wear to Say Goodbye

Jewelry has been around for a long time. Humans have been adorning themselves with gemstones throughout recorded history. Nowadays, stones are used to guide the airplanes we travel on, keep time, treat sickness, and do many other awe-inspiring things. I believe that almost all of them make things better and more beautiful.

Today, I had the profound joy of joining a group of friends, family, and parishioners to send Wagdi Hanna to the next stop in his celestial journey. The men and women of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in New Orleans prayed, chanted in English and Coptic, remembered, perfumed the air with incense, and wept. They shouted names and tasted the moment when this dearest man met death and began his next life.

The congregants at the funeral wore their finest gems and jewelry to say goodbye to Wagdi.  The jewels also remind us that we are still alive: that we are still here and our bodies are still beautiful, strong, vibrant, and asking for adornment.

Wagdi’s body lay in a coffin at the base of a golden and jeweled iconostasis. Pearls, the historic Egyptian symbol of accomplishment and power, hung around many necks. Even the priest mentioned his special white robe, which was fine and embroidered in gold and gemstones.

Many Americans think of a wedding ring as the quintessential piece of jewelry. However, doing so forgets all of the other gems and jewelry that are around us every day.

We need and use jewels for many reasons. Often, the gems speak for us when we don’t have words.

R.I.P. Wagdi.

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