“From noon on, darkness came over the whole land…Many women were there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. -Matthew 27: 45; 55-56
What follows is a reflection for this most sorrowful day, Good Friday. It is written by my dad, Keith Harder.
Were my bitter tears to create
they would not restore to life
my son. He lies in a grave and I
know not where
though I keep asking people
Oh, sing for him
God’s little song-birds
since his mother
cannot find him.
And you, God’s little
may you blossom all around
so that my son
I was mesmerized as I listened to these words sung in Polish by Dawn Upshaw on the radio on my short drive home for lunch. When I got home I sat in the car weeping as the music from Gorecki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” swept over me (link below). Only later did I find the English translation of the text that is embedded in the symphony. A text of a mother weeping for a son lost in war.
It was a short time after our son Tim drowned. I was still tender and easily moved to tears. Gorecki’s music and Upshaw’s voice touched me that day as a piece of music never had before. It expressed and carried my grief and loss in such a tender and unexpected way.
When the music was finished, the NPR radio host invited listeners to call with their impressions. In gratitude I called, noting the grief for Tim that it evoked. Later I learned from a friend that my call was broadcast; my fifteen seconds of fame.
Some years later this friend encountered his own symphony of sorrows in the death by suicide of his son. To this day we are bound in our grief through this haunting piece of music.
Fast forward thirty years and my daughter Ruth meets a member of the Kansas City Symphony who urges Ruth to suggest to the conductor of the Kansas City Symphony that they consider including the Symphony of Sorrows in a future concert.
All of this points to a mysterious convergence of events, people and experiences that I take as a glimpse of divine providence. A weeping mother in the aftermath of WWII, Tim’s death, Gorecki’s inspiration, someone including this obscure piece by an obscure Polish composer in a radio play list, my drive home for lunch on the day when it was playing on the radio, my calling our NPR station, John hearing my call and John’s son’s death all mysteriously converging in a redemptive, healing moment in time which continues to be a source of inspiration and comfort.