I don't watch movies more than once. Except for Tarsem's The Fall, which I've seen three times. And The Last of the Mohicans, which I've seen more than ten times. With each viewing I got a little further into the final fight, when Alice and Uncas die. (Oh, spoiler alert.) The last time I watched I got all the way until Chingachgook's speech without crying, but then I broke down. "It is I, Chingachgook, last of the Mohicans." Gets me every time.
I'm a crier when I watch movies. But I've been crying to The Last of the Mohicans since I was fourteen.
Read The End of The Last Battle
Further up and further in.
Night Falls on Narnia. Further Up and Further In. Farewell to Shadow-Lands. The end of The Last Battle is one long and unrelenting death and resurrection.
There is glory, and redemption, and exaltation. The stars falling from the sky. Edmund and Jewel and Eustace in glory and fulfillment, and Susan conspicuously absent. Mostly, though, the beauty.
"And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”Also, neither my wife nor I can keep it together when watching Shadowlands, the Anthony Hopkins movie about C. S. Lewis and the death of his wife, Joy. Nor do I maintain my composure while reading Surprised by Joy.
Sing What Wondrous Love Is This
I love What Wondrous Love Is This. It perfectly demonstrates that repetition and introspection in Christian worship do not have to be, as they so often are today, mindless and effeminate. I love the arc of the hymn, as the worshiper asks rhetorically about the nature of this wondrous love that would bear the curse for his soul, then reminds the hearer that as he was sinking down Jesus laid aside his crown for his soul, and finally promises that he will sing in grateful praise, not only now, but with the eschatologically optimistic millions (billions).
I especially enjoy singing the second verse, because the low-low-low bass notes on the first "sinking down" and the subsequent repetition make you feel like you're really sinking down down to goblin town, ho ho me lad!
What I am unable to do, however, is to sing the words "And when from death I'm free". I just have to stand there and listen to everyone else. "And when from death I'm free I'll sing and joyful be" is appropriately in the future tense. If I'm to sing verse four in a group, it will just have to wait till glory.
P.S. On an even more personal note I'm tearing up a bit as I write this, and out comes my nine-year-old boy from the den, having just finished reading Old Yeller. I guess it's a morning for tears. Stupid dog.
Listen To We Walked In Song
We Walked In Song is the title of an Innocence Mission album that came out shortly after my mother's death. I listened to it for a year. Karen Peris wrote it upon the death of her father. The first half of the album is about life, hers and his and all life. The central song is Song for Tom, her father. The second half of the album is about heaven and glory. In fact the whole album is chiastically structured, so that the first song matches the last in theme, the second matches the penultimate, etcetera, as outlined in the video below.
I really can't make it through the first three songs. If I don't cry for the beautiful people or the glory of Christ himself in The Brotherhood of Man, I cry for the passing beauty of a daughter's birthday in Happy Birthday, Beautiful. And if I do not cry for Happy Birthday, I cry for sons, who always leave their mothers' sides in Love That Boy.
Read About A Far Green Country
Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and hear the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil [this is where you start crying], the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.
[This is where you start to pull it together] But to Sam the evening deepened to darkness as he stood at the Haven; and as he looked at the grey sea he saw only a shadow on the waters that was soon lost in the West. There still he stood far into the night, hearing only the sigh and murmur of the waves on the shores of Middle-earth, and the sound of them sank deep into his heart.
Read Felix Randal
"Felix Randal the farrier, o is he dead then?" Gerard Manley Hopkins, perhaps my favorite poet, has more beautiful poems, but none that make me cry. Yet at the last verse of this poem I always trip up. Perhaps because the subject of my grief surprises me. Usually I cry for my mother or my children. And I've been known to cry for an abstract idea or two. This poem's obviously about me, powerful amidst peers, big-boned and hardy-handsome.
Sing It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio Spafford was a wealthy businessman until the Chicago Fire ruined him in 1871. In 1873 his family boarded the SS Ville du Havre, but he did not, as he was detained by real estate business. She collided with another ship, the Loch Earn, in the middle of the north Atlantic, sinking in twelve minutes. All four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife, plucked unconscious from the water by sailors of the Loch Earn, was landed in Wales nine days after the wreck. She telegrammed Horatio the now famous message "Saved alone. What shall I do."
None of that's the part that makes me cry, though. My best friend, the oldest son of the man who married my wife and I, is one of eight grown children, all of whom are musical. When we were in college he gave me a copy of some music he and his siblings had recorded for their father. I commented that I had really enjoyed their version of It Is Well With My Soul. He told me that when he was young his baby sister died. At the funeral the whole family were overcome by grief and lost their composure, until Malcolm, their father, stood up and began to sing "When peace like a river...". Eventually the whole family were able to stand and join in.
It is said that Horatio Spafford was inspired to write the words to the hymn only a few weeks later, as his own ship passed the spot where his daughters died. The tune the words are set to, written by another man, was called Ville du Havre. It's going to be hard for you to sing the words "when sorrows like sea billows roll" next time.
I can sing most of the hymn. I just can't sing the first or the last verse. Resurrection, man. It's too much for me. And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
Read The Beginning of Revelation 21
A few months ago a friend of mine and I were teaching Sunday school to five-year-olds. One Sunday it was her turn to lead, but she emailed to ask me in advance if I'd read Revelation 21:1-4 for her, since she didn't think she'd be able to keep it together so soon after the death of her father.
No problem, I said. Except that I ended up crying in front of all the five-year-olds, and then she ended up crying, and none of the five-year-olds were crying, but all were regarding us strangely.
Ironically, I am not able to read the words "and he shall wipe away every tear" without welling up a couple.
Behold, I make all things new. Death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.