Friday, July 23, 2010

From death into life

We went to a very difficult funeral today, a young father killed in an accident, a senseless tragedy. To be honest, I don't know if I'd have been able to summon up the courage to go if Aisling hadn't been asked to play the piano. I didn't know how to find the strength to sit in the church through the memorial Mass and see his wife, his two young children in the front pew, holding onto their strong faith with a white-knuckled grip, trying to find shelter in the midst of one of life's greatest storms.

But duty calls, and I, like many people, I imagine, find it easy to rely on What is Right to Do when my own personal inclinations are searching frantically for the easy way out: our small parish has three pianists and the other two both have full-time jobs. Aisling, a carefree teenager, has time to spare and she was needed to fill in the gap. So we went, dressed in dark colors on one of summer's most gloriously sunshiny days so far.

I imagined that the funeral would be a dreadful experience, that I would spend every minute and second and half-second wondering What if that were my husband? and What can we do to help them? and at last, torturously, How can we help? How can any congregation, however loving and well-meaning, take the place of a life's companion, the husband, the daddy?

It's all pretty unanswerable. I gave it up with a sigh and sat, rigid with sympathetic sadness through the beginning of the Mass and the first reading, but then we got to the responsorial psalm and I realized that I had been reckoning without the power of the Holy Spirit, to restore hope, to heal, to guide. Undoubtedly, this man's wife and children will have their season of grief. It will be a heavy cross to carry. But they've been promised help in the carrying, and at some point, they'll come through, from death into life, as we sang in Marty Haugen's beautiful rendition of Psalm 23.

I wish I could find a music clip on the internet that made it sound the way our small choir sang it, which was so perfectly lovely, I almost couldn't breathe. Unfortunately, all I could find on YouTube was a collection of videos of the "praise choir" sort, a type of music that I just can't abide because it sounds so false and so perform-y. Our choir, they sang the music in a way that I can only describe as organic, from the soul, in an attitude of prayer and hope that made the entire church, including the bereaved family, release a sigh of relief. As Blessed Julian of Norwich said, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Here are the lyrics:

Shepherd me, O God beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.

God is my shepherd, so nothing shall I want, I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love, I walk by the quiet waters of peace.

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life

Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul, You lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth, my spirit shall sing the music of your Name.

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life

You have set before me a banquet of love, crowning me with love beyond my pow’r to hold. Surely your kindness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, all the days of my life I will dwell in the house of my God forevermore

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life

No comments: