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I awoke this morning to a number of emails, one of the most powerful was this from CE Intern and UKirk student Katie Lee:
“I love John Prine. Maybe it’s the way he hates war or his compassion for people on the periphery. His songs don’t hold back any punches, but they always teach you something with a little kindness and humor. Though his first album remains my favorite, I want to look at the last few songs on his last album The Tree of Forgiveness.
The last lyrics are here.
If by chance I should find myself at risk
A-falling from this jagged cliff
I look below, and I look above
I'm surrounded by your boundless love
Surround me with your boundless love
Confound me with your boundless love
I was drowning in the sea, lost as I could be
When you found me with your boundless love
You dumbfound me with your boundless love
You surround me with your boundless love
His voice is raspy and changed from the cancer surgery that damaged his vocal cords and scarred his face. After the surgery, he wasn’t able to sing, so he climbed stairs until he was strong enough to perform.
I don’t know if anyone has captured an image of Jesus’ love so simply and purely.
“God Only Knows”
Here’s a part of the lyrics.
God only knows the way that I feel
Is only a part of the way that I feel
If I can't reveal that way that I feel
Then God only knows the way that I feel
I love the idea that God knows the way I feel, even when I can’t express fully or understand what I’m feeling.
The last song on his last album is called
“When I Get to Heaven.”
He sing-speaks the lyrics
When I get to heaven, I'm gonna shake God's hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I'm gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain't the afterlife grand?
I really hope that’s exactly what he’s doing right now because he died last night from complications with coronavirus.
Why does death have to be such a big part of life?”
Katie’s Email is powerful to me for so many reasons, not just the loss of a powerful lyricist, poet, and musician but because her question is so pertinent right now. Why does death have to be such a big part of life? Why doesn’t it happen on a schedule or only in expected ways? What do we do when it happens to those who mean something to us or who are part of our family and close community? I think all of these things must have been running through the disciples (and all of Jesus’s followers) heads as he died on the cross.
The attached picture is one of my favorites for Holy Week. It is a look of how I picture the disciples throughout those first 24 hours must have been, sitting not far from the cross, not knowing what now or what’s next, not even knowing what they are waiting for. I also think on Mary Magdalene’s journey over those few days. We get so excited by her excitement on Easter morning, but what must have those previous few days been like, what emotions must she have gone through. How about Jesus’s mother and John, how hard it must have been to care for each other, but also how much must that support moment to moment must have meant. We are in a strange time, one that at its best calls back to Lent, one that at its darkest calls us to this Holy Week and particularly the pain, grief, and struggle with the unknown and unknowable that is at the center of this story for so many who lived it.
I don’t know if I have any further questions for thought than to ask us all to reflect on these emotions both of those who lived this Holy Week originally and for each of us right now.
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