Latin: Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem.
English: Mournful that day.
When from the ashes shall rise
a guilty man to be judged.
Lord, have mercy on him.
Gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest.
(Lacrimosa, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
I have not heard someone play Lacrimosa in more years than I can remember. Perhaps since I was 12, at the height of any decency I once had as a pianist, and was challenged to learn an appropriate arrangement of it for the spring recital. I fell in love with the melody of this mourning song, and can still feel the way my fingers flew over the keys and my heart sang along the words as I played.
I heard it today. It was the prelude for the funeral service for the mother of a dear friend. As soon as I heard the pianist’s fingers strike the first phrase, I remembered, and my seat mate, a longtime colleague, smiled out of the corner of his eyes as my fingers tapped out the rhythm against my knees and my mouth formed the lyrics, still in my memory after all this time.
And though it perhaps seems an odd pairing, I immediately remembered words from an episode of The Good Place my favorite and I watched last night. (We’re just beginning Season 2, so for the love of all that is holy, do NOT spoil it for me!) In this particular episode, Eleanor Shellstrop, the show’s questionable heroine, is talking about humans and death–how we humans know that death is part of the deal. The end result of being alive. “And, so,” she says, “we’re all a little bit sad…all the time.”
We’re all a little bit sad all the time.
Because dear God in heaven sometimes life hurts. And dear God in heaven sometimes it is beautiful. And in between are days we want to remember and days we want to forget…making up our lives, such as they might be.
The risk of birth, after all, is the certainty of death.
I think we’re all a little bit sad all the time these days for lots of reasons, not just death, but I was keenly aware today, sitting in those old church pews, the vaulted ceiling above me and windows letting in filtered midday light, that every funeral or memorial service I attend is cause to remember every other I’ve ever attended. Cause to remember the pain this life can mete out. Cause to remember the joy of loving and being loved, even as it cannot ever last forever…because we are, in the end, mere mortals.
I sang Amazing Grace during this funeral today, a request I was happy to honor for the family–they are, as I’ve said, dear to me. I made it through the first two verses perfectly fine. But I got to that third verse, the one about the dangers and snares we’ve already been through, and how it is grace that has sustained us, and how grace, in the end, leads us home… And y’all. Whew.
I thought my heart was going to explode with the truth of the words. I know my voice broke, terribly, with the rush of it, and I’ve no idea how I powered through (or if I did at all) the fourth and final verse successfully.
It’s grace that’s brought us this far. And grace that will lead us home.
Such is grace. Such is the truth of this life we live together. Together. Not a one of us able to live in isolation if we really want to have life at all.
And still…yes…I think perhaps we’re all just a little sad all the time, a little lacrimosa–for the could have beens. For the might have happeneds. For the longings of what might yet be, even still. For the things desperately hoped for. For the sacredness of this life and how we so often forget that. And some days…it can all seem too much, this business of living.
And so let me say it one more time–louder for the folks in the back or any new readers–I believe with all that I am that our God did not create us simply to forsake us. I believe with all that I am that God created us for love and relationship. I believe with all that I am that God loves every single one of us, no exceptions, no matter what. I believe that our lives matter. And…most of all…I believe with all that I am that we are not alone. Not ever. And this is, I believe, where our great hope, and perhaps even great joy, is to be found, even when we mourn.
And because of all this, I believe these things, too: that our darkest days–as a people, as a country, as a world–do not have to be our last days. I believe love and light win. Somehow. Always and eventually.
Even when it seems impossible.