Departures & the Lord of Our Trys

The other day, I posted a bit of gorgeous music from a film soundtrack.

I’d been turned on to the music by Joseph Susanka, the excellent writer who also blogs at Inside Catholic (see his moving post about Jets Quarterback Mark Sanchez and a suffering little boy here).

Joseph–the young father of six little boys–also writes a weekly column, Through a Lens Darkly, where he finds the dark side of grace, even in lighter films, and also manages to find the light of grace in “darker” films. This week, he is writing about light-in-darkness as he looks at the Oscar-winning Japanese film for which the beautiful music was written, Okuribito (Departures):

It tells the story of young Daigo Kobayashi, an aspiring concert cellist, who finds himself forced to return to his birthplace when the mid-level orchestra which has employed him is dissolved . . . Responding to a peculiar newspaper advertisement, he finds himself offered the job of a nokanshi (encoffiner)—someone who travels to the homes of the recently deceased to perform the ceremonial, ritualistic burial preparations in the presence of the departed one’s grieving family members.
[...]
The story is spiritual rather than religious. Kobayashi participates in ceremonies for nearly every denomination, suggesting that his role as nokanshi is primarily a cultural one. But the film is also unashamed and uncompromising in its clear belief that death is far from the end of all things. As one character puts it, “Death is like a gateway. Dying doesn’t mean the end. You go through it, and on to the next thing.” For a society increasingly obsessed with extending life no matter the cost, the characters’ matter-of-fact, fearless acceptance of their wholly natural worldly demise is both refreshing and inspiring.

We humans, despite our best efforts to the contrary, struggle constantly against the notion that death is the conclusion of a story, rather than the gentle pause that comes at the end of a chapter. No wonder we are terrified and undone by its impending arrival…

Joseph, as usual, finds the grace-notes in the film, and as usual, now I have to put it on my Netflix list!

In another sort of “departure,” Marcia Morrissey (yes, that would be Ed Morrissey’s “First Mate”) has written a little gem of a column about those times we must depart from our comfort zones and step out into scary the scary new ventures that God has placed before us, in confident faith. I really love this column and this “Lord of All Our Trying”:

The Lord doesn’t ask me to be a wine maker, just His obedient servant, trusting Him, and filling the jars “to the brim”—to do my best for Him.

When we were in Biloxi before Thanksgiving, which I have written about here, Ed and I walked to Mass at the church a few blocks from our hotel on a beautiful Sunday morning. I was thinking of what I could take away from that trip to share with you readers. I had just started the column, and to be honest felt a bit unsure of myself; before this I had not so much as written a comment for an internet recipe! We got to the church a little early, and I asked Ed to describe what it looked like. He was telling me about it, and then said, “and right next to us is a beautiful stained glass window of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding feast, with Jesus, and Mary in the foreground, and with the servant pouring the water in the background.”

A comforting reminder to this once-unsure-of-herself Marriage Encounter presenter, a now unsure-of-herself weekly columnist needing only to trust, and to follow. Mary said to the servants “do whatever he tells you.” Make the water available, and he will bring the wine, for he is the Lord of All our Trying.

Two good mid-day reads, both offering much to think about.

About Elizabeth Scalia