Reflections by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. Many great musicians have written notable funeral music. The need for such music is great when a beloved one passes… because words, no matter how apt, seem inadequate to their soothing task, now urgent; and so we look to music for the solace words cannot give. Thus I have selected Edvard Grieg’s “Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak” composed in 1866 to accompany these reflections.
It was written in honor of his friend and fellow Norwegian composer Rikard Nordraak, who died in March of that year, just 23 years old.
As a posthumous gift to his friend, Grieg wrote this piece at once, writing it as a piano piece in A minor. He so valued it that not only did he travel with it so that it could be immediately available for his concerts… but he directed it be played at his own funeral. And so it was, in 1907, in an orchestration by Grieg’s friend and colleague Johan Halvorsen.
You will find it in any search engine. It is at once sombre, intimate, and, as all such music must be, uplifting. For it is the privilege of music to inspire and guide us to a better place where we can remember uninterrupted and without rush or hurray. As I listen, I feel sure Grieg knew that place, and I want you to know it, too.
My dear friend,
We men of science and education, we men of sophistication and travels, we men of thought and reflection, we think we will be ready when the news arrives… but we are all, despite calm reflections and thoughtful preparations, caught unawares by the unfathomable realities of the death of the person we love.
The news catches you up. Whatever you are doing, no matter how important it was just a moment ago, is important no longer. You r thoughts, all your thoughts are now about the great voyage already commenced by the dear departed.
We know this death. We have seen it before and yet… and yet… this death is unlike any which has come before because it touches you so in the core of your humanity. This is your friend who has died… your friend now gone… your friend in the process of leaving you forever and everything that was his, forever. And you scream, this cannot be… yet you are a man of science and understand when humans die. But science cannot help us here… any of us.
You want to rush to any window and throw up the sash, to see the heavens clearly… to see, though you know you cannot see, the great spirit of your friend ascending… as surely it must be.
You want to run and open your front door, racing out into the courtyard, where in the brightness of autumnal night, an unimagined immensity of stars overhead, you are sure, you are sure some trace of that great ascending spirit can be seen.
Yet you see nothing but what you have always seen… and this will not do, for a great event is occurring, as your friend is leaving you forever… and going where he must go and you cannot. You feel a sense of uncontrollable urgency… that this injustice cannot be, that this friend cannot and must not be taken from you and far away, forever, gone for all eternity. There is panic in your mind and in your heart. Something is happening that sore afflicts you… and yet there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that you can do, can think, can say. This is where despair begins… and the pain is unbearable. Now you truly know loss and wonder that any human can bear it.
And yet we humans do bear it… it is the hardest thing we must do… nothing is more difficult for all this occurs to us, in front of us, around us… yet nothing we say or do matters, and this maddens us and reminds us of our immutable limitations and how we, so grand and significant in our own minds, are as nothing set against the immensities of time, space, and of God, whom now we recall and beg for understanding, relief, and serenity.
And God hears us.
And gives us the balm of grief.
And it is this grief you are feeling now and which has brought me to you, to succor and relieve you at this great moment of great loss. For no human should ever grieve alone, burdened by memory. God does not demand so much of us; He recognizes the frailty of our humanity. And gives us each other for comfort.
Thus I shall sit with you a companionable while, no words necessary between you and me. And we shall, from time to time, speak of indifferent subjects, and so break the gloom. And in this amiable silence, you will, I know, think of the one gone before… for that matter is pressing.
Then, for I know you so well, you will remind me of a tale of this friend now gone, a tale you told me once in happier days. A tale of wit and joy and laughter… for your friend departed was clever and had a touch of devilry about him. And we shall laugh together… and thus I shall advance my task, the task of helping you resurrect joyous memories… the memories that bridge despair and make bearable so much unbearable sadness. Such memories offer a lifetime of solace… and it is my task to prompt you to remember, as if you with your great heart ever needed such prompting, much less now. In this room, in the gentle silence, there is healing. There is life and there is vibrant memory. So necessary. So soothing. So peaceful that, for an instant, we forget the sad occasion which brings us together and expect the friend to knock and, smiling, come within.
But just as we must never be overwhelmed by this occasion and the burden of memory, so we must never forget and so push away the bright memories that remain… for in these memories of him are many of the best memories of you. And we must never risk these in our reaching for serenity. For such serenity, if it comes at the cost of memory, was too high bought.
Go out now in the chill autumnal night and now look up again. There, though you still cannot see, there your friend, his spirit, ascends with your love and grief, intermingled for eternity. Look now and in your mind’s eye see all rise together. You a part of him, as all who know him and remember also are, for he traverses eternity with friends, and that, too, is solace.
Grieve! Grieve! This night away… and the day that follows… and let the warm tears flow, for he well deserves this final salute.. yours so rich and freely given.
A life has ended… a dear life… a life beloved, a life which has given and accepted love… this life is complete now and truly gone. But as it ascends unto eternity it calls down to us, the living, for the continuation of our love in memory and stark remembrance.
Look up, for his great and unending spirit speaks to you now… and bids you fond farewell. Give it now… and fully… for if he leaves this part of him with you, so he takes, and forever too, a great part of you with him, and so wherever he is going, you, his friend, are going too for evermore and forever, always remembered, never forgotten, and always loved. For he was rich in that as you have always also been.
About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four university degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities and is quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 50 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com
His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” has garnered nine literary prizes that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” A good read by this man of so many letters. Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of becoming a successful writer. Be sure to sign up now at www.writerssecrets.co
More can be found on Dr. Lant on his author page at: http://www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/