I’m not ashamed to admit it–I’m a crier. Lots of things make me cry. I cry at the end of movies–sad ones and happy ones–even ones I’ve seen many times before. I cry when I see cute babies or puppies on Facebook. Even some television commercials make me cry. Seeing an elderly couple holding hands brings tears to my eyes. If they kiss, I’m a goner.
According to my mother, I was born with enlarged tear ducts. It was a condition that corrected itself over time and did not require surgery. It’s not likely that it has anything at all to do with the fact that I can cry at the drop of a hat. Anyway, I doesn’t explain the lump in my throat that accompanies the tears.
In her post entitled, “The Health Benefits of Tears,” (Psychology Today, July 27, 2010) Judith Orloff, M.D. had this to say about crying:
“Tears are your body’s release valve for stress, sadness, grief, anxiety, and frustration. Also, you can have tears of joy, say when a child is born or tears of relief when a difficulty has passed. In my own life, I am grateful when I can cry. It feels cleansing, a way to purge pent up emotions so they don’t lodge in my body as stress symptoms such as fatigue or pain. To stay healthy and release stress, I encourage my patients to cry. For both men and women, tears are a sign of courage, strength, and authenticity.”
Dr. Orloff went on to explain about different types of crying. Emotional tears are especially beneficial because they contain stress hormones that are excreted from the body through tears. It is also possible that crying stimulates the production of endorphins–the feel good hormones.
Almost any emotional situation can bring tears to my eyes. I recently watched a video showing people in Israel on Holocaust Memorial Day. At a certain time, a siren sounded all over the entire country. People who were driving on the freeway pulled to a stop and got out of their cars. Everyone stopped and stood silently. The siren lasted for a long time, but I continued to watch until it ended. Amazingly, I was dry-eyed until the end. But as the people were getting back in their cars, a felt a lump in my throat and tears ran down my cheeks. It reminded me of something that happened here in my own state of Arizona. Cars lined both sides of the highway and people stood next to their cars as the bodies of nineteen hot shot fire fighters, whose lives were lost in a forest fire, were being returned home for burial. I pray that I will always be moved to tears by such displays of love and respect.
Church is the place where I am most likely to be brought to tears. At every mass, there is something that causes me to cloud up–a scripture reading, words to a song, a heart-felt homily. I have never once made it all the way through “Amazing Grace.” At some point I just have to stop singing for a moment because no words can make it over the lump in my throat. If I don’t have tears in my eyes on the way to communion, the tears form on the way back to my seat.
Sometimes I am so moved that I want to cry out, but I try my best to hold it in. I wonder at times if I’m the only one. Are their others around me holding back tears? Do they look upon the image of our crucified Lord and long to throw themselves at his feet and cry like a baby? If I did that, would they join me or would they call an ambulance, thinking I was having a heart attack? I wonder.