Choir Notes

Still the Strife, the Loneliness, and Grief
From Music and the Spoken Word
Delivered By: Lloyd D. Newell

To one degree or another, we all experience loss. And the loss we feel most deeply is the loss of loved ones whom we miss so much. Out of this collective mourning comes a shared understanding—the unity of those who sorrow that transcends words but cannot escape our hearts.

In our efforts to console those who suffer loss, our words of comfort, though earnest, may not always fill the gap in their heart. Our warm embrace, however, can help them feel less alone. Often just knowing that someone understands—that someone has felt what they feel—is enough to help them begin to heal—to push through the pain and find some comfort and peace.

Noted physician and author Rachel Naomi Remen tells of a little girl, Louisa, who was devastated when her pet kitten was killed in an accident. The adults in her family used their best grownup wisdom to comfort her, but only her grandmother, whose husband had also passed away, truly helped her feel better. She knew that Louisa did not need an explanation so much as she needed to be held close. Louisa sobbed on her shoulder, and when she finally looked up, she saw that her grandmother was crying along with her. That was enough.1

Young Louisa may not have had the ability to describe in words how she felt. But what happened between Louisa and her grandmother went beyond words. It wasn’t what was said that filled the emptiness in Louisa’s heart. It was the realization that, somehow, her grandmother understood. In her silence she conveyed empathy, love, and reassurance.

Of course, no amount of compassion can bring back our loved ones. But we can, to a degree, “still the strife, the loneliness and grief.” In ways we can neither explain nor deny, compassion can “heal the piercing silence of passing” and summon those “sweet familiar strains, the voices lost in death, arise in songs of hope everlasting.”2

1 See My Grandfather’s Blessing: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging (2000), 164–65.
2 David Warner, “Let Peace Then Still the Strife” (2006).

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