The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Final Week, For Not All Tears Are An Evil

I cry a lot, but I don't generally completely lose it. I shed tears, but I don't sob. But I have sobbed twice in my life after encountering a work of art. Once was after watching the movie Glory in 1989. And the other was when I came to the end of The Lord of the Rings.

I remember this vividly. I was a high school student. I was sitting on the couch reading, family members in the room and house. And when I finished the last lines of the book I knew I was going to lose it. I could feel it coming on over the final pages. And not wanting to look like a crazy person in front of my family, I went to the bathroom, locked the door, and, well, just sobbed.

Why was I crying?

It was Sam. Sam's love, attachment, and loyalty to Frodo is, I think many would agree, one of the greatest portrayals of love in all of literature. And this love takes center stage in the final moments of the book. It's just heartrending to watch Sam say goodbye to Frodo at the Grey Havens. 

And so tears are shed by Sam, Frodo, Merry and Pippin. Gandalf, wisely and kindly, had invited Merry and Pippin to the departure knowing Sam would need the company of friends on his return journey home. As Gandalf says to the crying hobbits:

'Yes,' said Gandalf, 'for it will be better to ride back three together than one alone. Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-Earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.'

No they are not. This was one of those moments early in my life, as a high school student, when I began to understand the relationship between love and tears. There is just no way of loving without bringing grief into your life. Love and suffering go hand in hand. 

So, what are you supposed to do? Well, you're supposed to cry. Sob. You grieve. There is just no way through but through. This is what love is. And while it might seem very strange to bring in Vision from WandaVision here, I really do think he hit the nail on the head when he said in the final episode, "What is grief, if not love persevering?"

But there's still joy and life in the midst of these tears. Sam still has Merry and Pippin, and the three ride back to the Shire where Sam will be reunited with Rose and his daughter, and all the full happy years they will have together. We love, we grieve, and we go on loving. This is the pathos of human life. Loving those who have passed over the Sea, and loving those still in our life. We love and we cry. And it's the most beautiful and profound mystery of life.

The final lines of the book:

At last the three companions turned away, and never again looking back they rode slowly homewards, and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire, but each had great comfort in his friends on the long grey road. 

At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland, and already they were singing again as they went. But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as the day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap. 

He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' he said.

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