On this day before the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I want to share what I think is one of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard about this terrible event that broke our hearts and for a time united people all over the world in our common humanity.
The song is called “Land of the Living” by the remarkable singer/songwriter Lucy Kaplansky from her great album “The Red Thread.” It’s a deeply moving song. It’s real. It powerfully yet tenderly evokes that terrible day and touches our sorrow. But it also reminds us that “this is the land of the living.” I hope this song offers you comfort and hope on our day of national and international mourning and remembrance.
Click to listen: The Land of the Living by Lucy Kaplanksy
Some Personal Thoughts on Dealing with Death and Loss
I’ve been reading a lot of the poetry of Wendell Berry lately, and this excerpt from his poem “Rising” came to mind this morning as I thought about life, death, and the precious lives of all those we have loved and lost.
Although the poem speaks of the burdens we carry in our hearts over loved ones lost, it also speaks of a “severe gift” that calls us to honor the dead by being true to ourselves and by courageously living in the light of what we learn from our losses.
This poem is probably not for everyone. Each person deals with loss and grief differently. The healing of grief takes time. It can’t be forced or “magically” fixed. If we deny it or try to bury our grief, it will eventually demand that we honor it with our full attention.
As painful as it is to endure, grief has something important to tell us that we have to learn, and for each of us, that lesson is different. So, there are times to look at our grief square in the face, and there are times to quietly mourn and just be there with our hearts, comforting ourselves and others as best we can.
This poem is about dealing with our grief and honoring what it tells us about those lost loved ones—the poet’s “severe gift.” I found the poem challenging, comforting, and strengthening. It gave me hope and a sense of purpose to go forward and to honor this life and the lives of those I’ve lost by how I live my life. I offer this poem as a gift, heart-to-heart, to those who are ready to hear its message.
Excerpt from Wendell Berry’s “Rising”
Any man’s death could end the story:
his mourners having accompanied him
to the grave through all he knew,
turn back, leaving him complete.
But this is not the story of life.
It is the story of lives, knit together,
overlapping in succession, rising
again from grave after grave.
For those who depart from it, bearing it
in their minds, the grave is a beginning.
It has weighted the earth with sudden
new gravity, the enrichment of pain.
There is a grave, too, in each
survivor. By it, the dead one lives.
He enters us, a broken blade,
sharp, clear as a lens or mirror.
And he comes into us helpless, tender
as the newborn enter the world. Great
is the burden of our care. We must be true
to ourselves. How else will he know us?
Like a wound, grief receives him.
Like graves, we heal over, and yet keep
as part of ourselves the severe gift.
By grief, more inward than darkness,
the dead become the intelligences of life.
Where the tree falls, the forest rises
There is nowhere to stand but in absence,
no life but in the fateful light.