When I was in my twenties I married a man named Bill who was not a good match for me, nor I for him. After seven years of a progressively deteriorating marriage, we finally agreed to divorce. Having no children, we had no further contact.
Twenty years later, on Saturday, 15 September 2001, the front page of the newspaper listed the names of all those who had died in the attacks of 9/11. Among them was Bill’s name. He’d been a passenger on the jet that crashed into the Pentagon.
When I saw his name I let out a sound like nothing I’d ever heard before—a shriek, a sob, a loud wail. My shock and grief were also inflected with the peculiar pain that comes in grieving an estranged and unresolved relationship.
Throughout the distress and numbness of the next days and weeks, unable even to pray, I turned to the sung prayer of Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem,” which became the soundtrack of my grieving, a continuous loop of God’s comfort. “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.” Lamb of God, who removes the sin of the world, grant them rest.
In this very personal experience of the Requiem I realized that, although a requiem is a mass for the dead, it is sung for the sake of the living—it is God’s tender love reaching out to us in our grief, embracing us in our suffering, and helping us to release our loved ones into Christ’s waiting arms.
On this eve of All Saints Day—Halloween—I am listening once again to the magnificent Requiem of Fauré, and holding in my heart all the many people who have been lost to me in death. Next week I will join the choir of Waynesburg University, where I am an adjunct professor, in performance of the Requiem.
Preparing this work has already touched my soul deeply, and I pray that the performance will also touch others in our common experience of grief and longing, for every human being alive will one day find themselves in a dark time, whether through bereavement or other profound loss. And when that dark day arrives, may God come to them on wings of mercy, in a remembered song of grace.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord; and may perpetual light shine on them.
Kris Haig — artisan, teacher, spiritual director