in memoriam


(post by Dr. Desiree Hassler)

I was going to write a blog post about Elie Wiesel. I was planning to call it something like, “Elie Wiesel and the Art of Remembrance.”  You know, write about Jewishness and remembering.  Talk about my own family’s personal intersections with the Holocaust.  Maybe throw in some discussion about how American composers have handled this idea of loss and remembrance in the Jewish contexts of Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony, Steve Reich’s Different Trains.  Maybe I’d throw in a sound clip of Lori Laitman’s sobering I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a song cycle for soprano and saxophone, composed entirely of poetry written by Jewish children in the concentration camps. Maybe Penderecki’s iconic Threnody. That was the plan.

I was all ready to write it when news of the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling blew up my Facebook feed.  And there I was, at home with my four kids and the sinking feeling of, “please, God, not again.”  What do I tell them? How do I….My mind goes to the faces of my beautiful black friends.  Their children.  My Austin neighbors who stroll past my porch–I want to say, “I’m so, so sorry.”  But the words just don’t come.  

Somehow after Sterling’s death and the appropriate tidal wave of public opinion,  it seemed that writing an article about Elie Wiesel was suddenly irrelevant, untimely.  It didn’t feel right anymore – didn’t fit neatly into the current #blacklivesmatter narrative.  And that didn’t feel right to me either, but I decided to chew on it for another day.  The next day brought the shattering news of another fatal shooting; this time, Philando Castile.  And just when we’d all prayed the quota of tragedy had been met for the week, news of the Dallas sniper attack broke – another 5 souls spent at the hands of anger and confusion.

These, on the heels of the Baghdad car bomb that claimed over 200 lives, the Dhaka, Bangladesh café attack that took 23 more. Just last night in France, people of Nice were throwing their children to the side of the road as a truck mowed down and killed 80+ as they celebrated their independence day.  

And this list isn’t even an exhaustive one.

The last week and a half has been a mess. The earth is positively groaning.

Can you feel it?  Will you feel it?

Creation is crying out to be set right and it is fitting for us to join our voices to that cry.  

Can you hear it?  Will you hear it?

Jesus, have mercy.  

It was becoming clear that this wouldn’t be the neat and tidy post on “Elie Wiesel and the Art of Remembrance” that I set out to write.  Instead, this last week and a half writes itself through tears that confess a reverberant grief.  I have nowhere else to go but to bow the knee to Jehovah-Rapha:  the Lord who heals.  In the midst of the noise and brokenness, our God is on the throne, He is the Author and Perfecter of remembrance.  

He remembers Elie Wiesel better than I set out to in that first article because He made him from dust (Gen. 2:7).  

God numbered the precious hairs of Alton Sterling’s head (Luke 12:7).  

He catches all of the tears shed for Philando Castile in His bottle (Psalm 56:8).  Not one rolls down the cheek of His children without being lovingly accounted for.    

And though the press lumps them together as the “Dallas Sniper Victims,” God calls them each by name (Is. 43:1) as only a Father can:

Lorne Ahrens. 

Michael Krol. 

Patrick Zamarripa. 

Brent Thompson. 

Michael Smith.

God, You remember.

Today, I include Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.  I choose it, because unlike Barber’s iconic Adagio for Strings that washes over you in beautiful melancholy, Threnody is noisier.  Less polite.  Like this post, it draws fewer conclusions, sits and meditates for a while in a difficult place.  

Lord, have mercy.


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