Yesterday, I started to write a comment on the Favorites of the Year thread saying that my problem with the thread was that every find that I had last year was a movie or book that I learned about on this blog, so everyone else already knew about them, and we had already discussed them. Then I remembered a song I had heard by Audrey Assad, and then another.
A while back I got an email from my friend Sheila in which she mentioned that she was listening to Audrey Assad's Death Be Not Proud over and over again. So, I listened to it, and bought it. It is based on John Donne's sonnet of the same name.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
At that time Ms. Assad had written about this song on her website and she said that she had written the song after several of her pregnant friends had miscarried. I read this in October, 2015, at which time my daughter had miscarried twice in about four months.
Then when Sheila and I traveled to North Carolina in the Fall of 2016, she brought along another album by Audrey.Assad, Inheritance, which includes the song, "Even Unto Death." This is a song which Ms. Assad, the daughter of a Syrian refugee (he came here as a child with his single, refugee mother), wrote after seeing the video of the 21 Coptic men who were executed by the Islamic State in February, 2015. I had never watched this video before because I didn't want to see anyone beheaded.
The video below contains the song, and part of the video of the martyrs—not the beheading—and Ms. Assad's explanation of the song. If you haven't seen the original video, you ought to watch this. Those men, except for maybe one, do not look like I would if I were about to be beheaded. They seem very calm and prepared for their deaths. When they first walk onto the beach and sink to their knees as one body, it is more like a liturgy than an exercise in violence, and as they kneel there with their executioners behind them, it is reminiscent of catechumens at Easter vigil with their sponsors.
When I had typed most of my comment, which was a great deal shorter than this, on the blog, I noticed that the two songs had a common theme, and it is a theme that anyone who has read much will recognize as being a recurrent theme for me.
I have planned close to a hundred funerals over the past three and a half years, and I have read all the readings that the Church has chosen for funerals aloud to the families many, many times. My favorite is from 1 Corinthians 15.
Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O Death is your victory?
Where, O Death is your sting?
I love to read this at a funeral, I read it at my mother's funeral. I love to stand there and look Death in the eye and spit. (I would never spit in real life. I'm a Southern lady after all.)
However, about two months while I was reading this to a family, I almost caught my breath in the middle of the scripture. Because now it's different. Now it's not my 89 year old mother, or even my own death that's in the balance, but my infant granddaughter. If she had died, I would not have escaped that sting. And yet I know that even in that case, Death would not have had the final word.
Thankfully, she is doing very well, and we are all beginning to breathe a lot easier.
I'm posting this here instead of on my blog because I wanted to post more-or-less anonymously, although anyone who reads this blog with any frequency knows who wrote this. I just don't want it to be easily found by a Google search because I don't want to intrude on my daughter's privacy.
While I was in the middle of writing this, I got an email that a friend—not a close friend, but a sister in Christ—has died. Her name is Flo. Please say a prayer for the repose of her soul when you read this.