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A chance listening to a mountain dulcimer and a string orchestra performing Connie Elisor’s Blackberry Winter (1997) quickened my imagination: Succulent blackberries and frigid winds erupted into a honied ache, a puckering of the lips, a twinge of sweetness. What was the composer up to?

In my perception, he used the literary device called juxtaposition in which two dissimilar images are purposely placed together, their resonances morphing into a larger reality. Thus the desired surprise gladdens the listeners/readers.

It might be stretching the meaning of juxtaposition to apply it to the human being, seeded at birth with life and death, but here goes. Only the wise see mortality in a newborn infant, but it is there. Only the wise sense our living both in kairos time and chronos time. Only the wise intuit the interplay of spirit and matter as we develop through the decades allotted us.

Most of my life I adhered to practices that inched my evolving into the crone I have become. In the process, my arthritic body was often in the way. Today, terminal illness commands my full attention. Thus, the rub—at times, annoying, terrifying, awkward; at others, gentle, compassionate, understanding. Only within thus rubbing will the new entity, Elizabeth, be fashioned for the experience of eternal life. Having glimpsed this realm, I can’t wait—but I must.

…in the twinkling of an eye, we shall all be changed. I Cor 15:52

Oh! It’s over!

The audience jumps up, cheering, clapping, hugging friends, waving programs in the air. Explosive energies vibrate the floorboards and penetrate the stucco ceiling of Powell Hall in St. Louis, MO. Remembered strains from Beethoven’s Chorale Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (1824) still excite imaginations, while its German conductor Marcus Stenz, baton in hand, swings from the podium and moves offstage.

Eyes glisten, smiles ache, palms sting. Foot stamping adds to the pandemonium and again Stenz appears, honoring the four solicits, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, and the principal chairs of the symphony. Then, he bows, still held captive by the audience, its din waxing and waning. No one wants to leave.

This almost two-hour-long cosmic drama has transported us from the pedestrian stuff of our lives to “the sparkle of God,” as evidenced in Schiller’s Ode to Joy (1785), some of which Beethoven wove into the final movement of this symphony. Perhaps his tortured spirit, plagued by decades of stomach disorders, of heavy drinking, of deafness, of inadequate funds, of difficult relationships found expression in his Chorale Symphony, thirty years in the making. Having sifted through the stuff of his life, he found deep Joy within. He was free.

The applause of that first audience stunned him to tears. He passed three years later.


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