Each year, on Ash Wednesday and during Lent, I focus attention on a singer-songwriter or album from the popular culture of my lifetime in which I find echoes of the Lenten journey.
This year, we devote ourselves to listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s superb intensely personal album from 2012, Ashes And Roses, which describes her own journey “from night into day,” as she processed a life-threatening illness, a divorce, and the death of her father.
MCC learned what it means to have grief as a constant companion in that season of her life. It led her to write one of the most vivid and accurate descriptions of the grieving experience I’ve ever heard.
Grief is unwanted company that forces to learn the world and what it means to live all over again.
Grief rides quietly on the passenger side
Unwanted company on a long, long drive
It turns down the quiet songs and turns up the din
It goes where you go, it’s been where you’ve been
And pushing your empty cart mile after mile
Leaves you weeping in the wilderness of the supermarket aisle
And in the late night kitchen light it sits in a chair
Watching you pretend that it’s not really there, but it is…
…So it is and you ask
Are you predator or friend? the future or the past?
It hands you your overcoat and opens the door
You are learning the world again just as before
But the first time was childhood
And now you are grown, broken wide open, cut to the bone
And all that you used to know is of no use at all
The same eyes you’ve always had have you walking into walls
And the same heart can’t understand why it’s so hard to feel
What used to be true, what’s now so unreal, but it is…
…So it is and you say
I wish I were the wind so that I could blow away…
Grief sits silently on the edge of your bed
It’s closing your eyes, it’s stroking your head
The dear old companion is taking up air
Watching you pretend that it’s not really there…