Sustaining Songs


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Today is an “Eey­ore” sort of day around here, pri­mar­ily in terms of the weather: gray and gloomy. For­tu­nately, other aspects of life for my fam­ily and me are more Tigger-like — bouncy and happy — at present, for which I am grateful.

At the same time, I know of a friend who has recently lost her hus­band to sud­den death, another who is deal­ing with rela­tion­ship prob­lems, and — as I’m sure is the case in your life, too — the list goes on and on.

Recently, I read a Winnie-the-Pooh sto­ry­book to my five-year-old and was struck by a line. You may remem­ber the story of Pooh vis­it­ing Rabbit’s home (a hole in a sandy bank), where he eats so much that he can’t squeeze him­self back out the door. He ends up stuck there, half in and half out, for sev­eral days dur­ing which he is not allowed to eat in order that he might get thin enough for his friends to pull him free. While in this predica­ment, as you might imag­ine, he gets to feel­ing quite down. And so — and here is that favorite line of mine — “[His friends] sang him Sus­tain­ing Songs and tried to cheer him up…”

That’s the “Lit­tle Golden Book” ver­sion. In the orig­i­nal telling by A. A. Milne, the friends tell Pooh Sus­tain­ing Sto­ries. Either way… I am reminded of how, when some­one dies, the fam­ily and loved ones are not left alone. Rather, espe­cially if the indi­vid­ual and fam­ily have been part of a faith com­mu­nity, the com­mu­nity  sur­rounds the sur­vivors and, often in the con­text of a memo­r­ial ser­vice, sings “Sus­tain­ing Songs” and tells “Sus­tain­ing Stories.”

When I am a mem­ber of such a com­mu­nity sur­round­ing the bereaved, I try to sing the selected hymns strongly and con­fi­dently because often the mourn­ers aren’t able to do so. I want them to hear the voices behind them, like a wall of music upon which they can lean. As a pas­tor who used to lead funeral ser­vices reg­u­larly, I would tell spe­cial sto­ries from the deceased person’s life and read fit­ting sto­ries and other pas­sages from Scrip­ture with hope in my voice to mit­i­gate at least some of the power of the family’s sorrow.

Not only at times of death, how­ever, do we sing Sus­tain­ing Songs and tell Sus­tain­ing Sto­ries to one another — fig­u­ra­tively, if not lit­er­ally. All through life, we need each other to do so. You have your down days, and so do I. When you are down — for what­ever rea­son: a bad cold lay­ing you low, a con­cern about your child, a job frus­tra­tion, a dream that has died — I will, to the best of my abil­ity, sing you Sus­tain­ing Songs and tell you Sus­tain­ing Sto­ries; I will stay near you and keep you com­pany, until you are released from wher­ever you are stuck. I trust you will do the same for me. After all, that’s what friends are for.

Does some­one in your life need a Sus­tain­ing Song or Story today? Do what your heart urges you to do.

One Response

  1. Traci S. Campbell Says:

    Very encour­ag­ing post, Heidi. I like the idea of “Sub­stain­ing Songs” and will remem­ber this in times of hard­ship, loss, or chal­lenges. Thanks soo much for shar­ing this. 🙂

    — Traci

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