July 12, 2020

Lent with Mary Chapin Carpenter (3)

Lent with Mary Chapin Carpenter (3)

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…

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Comments

  1. Chaplin Mike, thanks for making me aware of this album. This song is many things profound, honest, truthful, seeking, questioning, I really do not know what emotion or intellect it touches in me but it does. As grief is part of your expertise your recommendations carry more weight. I do not know but I hope that Ms. Carpenter is doing well and that her life is as wonderful henceforth as her talent. I guess our deep emotions are always with us , we just learn to accept them, live with them and learn from them. Does grief, ever go away? Personally I do not think so, we learn to deal with it, like in the song and know it is present but a part of our life not the whole of our life. it is a pop culture phrase , but it does become our new normal. Anyway , thanks again, , I would not have come across this on my own and not given it the attention it deserves.

  2. Thank you, for sharing this. I haven’t listened to her for years, and this is such a heartfelt song, expressing the reality of grief.

    Grief has its own times and seasons, and will not be rushed. It also won’t be fit into anyone else’s calendar. So while lent is a time of self-examination and sorrow for what’s gone before, it ends after 40 days and Easter comes. Grief goes on and on, changing to be sure, but glacially. It’s the continuation of broken love, and like love, it’s as perennial as the grass.

  3. senecagriggs says

    The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter is [free] streaming if you have a Prime account with Amazon.

  4. anonymous says

    what grief does for us is to help us realize that love is eternal

    • I like that observation. Question, then: Do we need to live this life in order to appreciate or realize that fact?

      • Rick,

        The observation by anonymous piques my interest as well, although, I am uncertain if I agree with it, or even if I have the intelligence to realize that it may be true. At best, I can hope that grief and love are two sides of the same coin; perhaps grief is love’s vexation. Subsequently, maybe then it follows that grief is love’s unwillingness to surrender.

        This does remind me of some words ascribed by Brennan Manning, words that I align with to a significant degree………. “When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

        To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”