I fell asleep last night thinking about the questions about end of life stuff that my sister raised about one of my cats, who is about to have major surgery to remove a malignant tumor (Shea is with her, five hours away, so I won’t be there the day of surgery if things go awry). In my dreams, with death on my mind, I dreamed of my mother in her final hours and how heartbreaking it was to see her go.
Needless to say, I was not at all prepared to open the hymnal to this first hymn in the Transience section, and I cried through the singing.
I cannot think of them as dead who walk with me no more;
along the path of life I tread they are but gone before,
they are but gone before.
And still their silent ministry within my heart has place
as when on earth they walked with me and met me face to face,
and met me face to face.
Their lives are made forever mine; what they to me have been
has left henceforth its seal and sign engraven deep within,
engraven deep within.
Mine are they by an ownership nor time nor death can free;
for God has given to love to keep its own eternally,
its own eternally.
These lyrics are lovely, and I think for many – Unitarian Universalist and otherwise – they would be equally comforting. And what made it possible for me to cry was a simple but beautifully crafted tune (“Distant Beloved”) by Frederick Wooten. This gentle melody both matches the lyric and gets out of the way of the lyric so that the meaning can rise up and spill out – in my case, literally spill out as tears.
(Fair warning: the next few days may feature some powerful memories and unleased sentimentality… such is the power of music. )