Every year the staff of St. Jude Children’s Hospital puts on a weekend experience that is called Day of Remembrance. It is for the families who have lost a child to the vicious disease of cancer. The Day of Remembrance is “for the lives of children who have touched us and died leaving that touch with us forever.”
Because the mission of St. Jude’s reaches around the world, families return from the far corners of the globe for this very special weekend. Though they may not speak the same language, they have all journeyed through the land of pain and had to let go of the hand of their child. In that context, a tear, a touch, or a knowing nod between these diverse sojourners eloquently says, “I understand in a way that no one else can.”
It has been the privilege of the chorus that I direct (www.davidjohnsonchorus.com) to participate in this event for the past three years and share our gift of music with the families. It is a sobering experience to be on the sidelines of such intimate moments, to get a tiny glimpse into the windows of people’s souls who have suffered the greatest wound one can experience.
When I throw my life’s problems into the pile of wretched emotions that these people have experienced, I find it very easy to sort through that laundry. I reach in and pull out all of my problems one at a time, look at them, fold them up and then shove them to the back of the drawer, embarrassed that I even bothered to make a big deal about them. They suddenly don’t seem to be so messed up anymore. As a matter of fact, it’s like they never existed.
I realize that none of us should be in the “problem-comparison-business.” What is a problem for me, might not be a problem for you and vice-versa. Anything that is an impediment along our life’s path is a problem and has to be dealt with.
But sometimes we need to step back, take a breath, and look around us at the many blessings we have in life. It’s possible that when we count our blessings, our problems will seem no more than a pinch of salt in a favorite recipe, not enough to really notice.
At the close of the service in the auditorium, a poem is read in responsive style with the families. It’s a universal message of hope for anyone who has suffered. (The author of the poem is not noted.) Read it slowly and carefully.
We trust that beyond the absence,
There is Presence.
That beyond the pain,
There is Healing.
That beyond the brokenness,
There can be Wholeness.
That beyond anger,
There can be Forgiveness.
That beyond hurting,
There may be Peace.
That beyond the silence,
There may be the Presence of God.
That within that presence,
There may be Understanding.
That through understanding,
Love will regain its Strength.