In wrestling with the death of my friend and colleague, Joe Feuerherd, my mind recalled a beautiful piece of music by Mahler: Ich bin der Welt.
Here is a link to a recording of Dame Janet Baker singing it. The lyrics are posted on the same page.
Some people think this is the most sad piece of music ever. I profoundly disagree. Certainly, it is not chipper. It is about detachment from the world and its cares, which is something difficult for our twittered, black-berryed, "American Idol" culture to grasp but which is something worth considering as one walks along a spiritual path.
Sad or not, I think it is the most beautiful piece of music I know.
I first learned of this piece of music from Father Joe Kugler, who was my religious mentor as a teenager. Joe was also an opera fanatic and he would drive the two and one-half hours to New York City twice or more a week to take in concerts. Indeed, Joe brought Dame Janet Baker to our little corner of Connecticut for a concert at the church in which he grew up. At Joe's funeral, the homilist recalled that Joe would play a parlor game: If you knew the world was going to end in 30 minutes, and your soul was at peace, what music would you choose to see you across the abyss? This was always on Joe's list. It would be on mine too.