Why does this make me cry?

It’s a song by Sara Groves, titled “What do I Know?” It’s this part here that makes my face wet:

She lost her husband after sixty years
and as he slipped away she still had things to say

Those lines make me feel sad because of the losses, and the narrator’s inability to fix anything. I suppose there’s an aspect of wishful thinking that I indulge in myself — that there’s always tomorrow.

But of course one day will be your last; one day will be my last. So if there’s some help I want to either give or get from you, then tomorrow might be too late. Probably not, but it might be.

Anyway, here’s how the song starts.

I have a friend who just turned eighty-eight
and she just shared with me that she’s afraid of dying.
I sit here years from her experience
and try to bring her comfort.
I try to bring her comfort
But what do I know? What do I know?
She grew up singing about the glory land,
and she would testify how Jesus changed her life.
It was easy to have faith when she was thirty-four,
but now her friends are dying, and death is at her door.
Oh, and what do I know? Really, what do I know?

I don’t know that there are harps in heaven,
Or the process for earning your wings.
I don’t know of bright lights at the ends of tunnels,
Or any of those things.

As I think about this, I see that much of what I do is aimed at avoiding things. I put on my seat belt to avoid grievous injury — to avoid getting a ticket, too. I sock money away to avoid starving when I’m no longer fit for gainful employment. I lock the door because I don’t want to come home to an empty house. Is that the wrong way to look at life?

So why does this song make me cry? Is it because the song shows the ultimate futility of all the octogenerian’s planning (as if she lived her life trying to avoid the things that now confront her)? Is it because I know there are things coming my way that I can’t avoid — children leave home for months at a time — as the elder then-teen did in 2007 and the younger remaining teen did last year — and will do again this fall. The whole aging thing — when “the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark,…when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;” etc. (Eccl. 12:1-8) — that’s unavoidable, unless I die young. I’ll lose my parents one day, if they get their wish and I outlive them.

But our life is not only the life we have in this world, as Jesus promised (John 3:16, John 5:24-26) and Paul affirms (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). So although we live prudently (trust God and fasten your seat belt), we have to live — I have to remind myself to live — in the knowledge that what we see isn’t everything. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)


Another version of this post appeared
on my personal blog.

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