Gentle readers, there is a chance I will let you down today.
You see, I am feeling utterly and totally uninterested in where this hymn came from, who wrote it, and why we sing it to this tune.
Which is kinda funny, because that’s exactly what my mom would have me do: activate another part of my brain and lose focus on the part that’s dwelling in sadness. It may explain why I struggled so much with my depression as a youth; where this worked for her, it didn’t always work for me, and it wasn’t until well into adulthood that I was able to name it and experience it more fully.
But the truth is, one week out from the tenth anniversary of her death, I am finding it hard this morning to do anything but mourn as I sing this hymn. Partly because it’s a hymn specifically for this purpose, but partly because there are things in here Mom has said to me, almost verbatim without really knowing the hymn, about death and mourning. I remember her complimenting the country pastor who conducted my father’s funeral, because he had talked about how the dead live on in us and our stories, which was something she believed was true. And she was so fascinated with all we were learning about space and physics. Once we watched A Brief History of Time, and she spent the rest of the weekend having those deep thought moments as she tried to wrap her head around black holes (it was something that continued to come up every now and then, because it continued to flummox her).
This hymn seems like it could have been written by her – and certainly beloved by her.
Let hope and sorrow now unite
to consecrate life’s ending.
And praise good friends now gone from sight,
though grief and loss are rending.
The story in a well-loved face,
and years and days our thoughts retrace,
are treasures worth repeating.
With faith, or doubt, or open mind
we whisper life’s great question.
The ebb and flow of space and time
surpass our small perception;
yet knowledge grows with joyful gains
and finds out wonders far more strange
than hopes of resurrection.
And here’s the truth: music has the power to do a lot of things; it helps us rejoice, consider, release, meditate, explain, laugh, and yes… mourn. I am not upset that this came along when it did – it’s probably right on time, and it has allowed me to share more about this remarkable woman who raised me.
Picture is of my mother as a young woman, probably around age 25.