The Music That Remains

by Stefani on 14-January-2010

During his “convalescing,” I lay on the couch with one of my boys and brushed the hair back from his little head. We were listening to a new record acquisition, a compilation of classical music meant for children. He was feeling so awful but particularly liked a piece by Bach (Cello Suite, No. 1, Prelude). He said it made him feel “better inside,” because he “didn’t think once about being sick” when he was listening to it.

And so I told him Mr. Bach’s story. I told my little son how this young man was born into a family of musicians and that  he likely understood the language of music long before he could speak. I told him how tragedy struck and left young Johann Sebastian an orphan at only 10. I told my son of Bach’s acceptance to a prestigious music school at only 14 and we wondered together how he felt when he got the news. Was wishing that he could share this his happiness with his parents?

My little boy marveled to hear that Bach had worked for a Duke who threw him in jail over a disagreement and then for the Prince who released him. My young man was shocked to hear that Mr. Bach was papa to 20 children and that some of those children would have lived in the prince’s castle and played in his gardens. Bach was so proud of all of those children, and often bragged of their number and musical abilities. His family enjoyed many musical evenings playing together. “Like us, mama, only BIGGER!”

Holding my sick little boy, I was so saddened to think that 10 of Bach’s children died at a very young age. What is a simple sickness today was then a very real danger. I am always amazed by the steadfast faith of that man who, after seeing so many of his children die, could even yet sign each of his pieces, “Soli Deo Gloria,”  – “To the Glory of God.”

I listened with my son to Bach’s music, and I thought how it would have hurt that loving father to know that his remaining sons quarreled so bitterly after his death that they went their separate ways and left their mother, his devoted wife and helper, to live on charity and die a pauper’s death.

But here’s the thing…

From a life so touched by sadness and tragedy sprang such beautiful music, music that CHANGED music, music that changed people, music that changed history and the world itself. I wonder if his music would have been the same, meant so much, were it not flavored with the salt of tears.

At this moment, Bach’s music plays among the stars, aboard the Voyager, as a testament to all that is human – the beauty that grows from the fertile ground of sorrow. All of the pain and joy of that one life, lived out some 300 years ago, has been distilled down to music worthy of the heavens.

I tell you all of this now for the same reason I told it to my sick little man … because it is a tale that helps me to remember that the holes left in us by sickness, pain and tragedy are there to make room for the glory and the joy. Sometimes we don’t understand how and why bad things happen in our world, but I refuse to believe that it is in punishment, or that it is because we have an unfeeling God. I believe that the suffering is only a prelude for the music.

To the people of Haiti, I hope that the joy comes quickly and that it far surpasses the weight of the pain.

Candice Edwards January 14, 2010 at 11:19 am

Such a heartfelt and beautiful post. Almost made me cry. I look at your blog often but have never left a comment. I love your way with words and photographs. Thanks for sharing!

wesleyjeanne January 14, 2010 at 11:40 am

What an absolutely beautiful and profound post. Your words are like Bach’s music to my ears. Thank you.

Jenny L. January 14, 2010 at 12:14 pm

What a beautiful post. Thank you.

Carine January 14, 2010 at 1:08 pm

You have such a way with words, you always amaze me! Thanks for this great post…

holly January 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm


lisa January 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm

a haunting, beautiful piece of music. one of our favorites! thank you for sharing that.

Jennifer January 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm

can i simply offer a sincerely heartfelt thank you?

Kathy January 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Beautiful. Love the things that you are sharing here, and the truth that indeed pain does leave a window for beauty. I’m also thankful that you got around to enjoying my little start of a homeschool music curriculum, as messy and mistake-ridden as it is right now. But pop on over to my blog anytime and ask a question about music. I’m devoting my monday blog posts to answering musical questions, and I’d love to be a part of your schooling journey. 🙂

BOATBABY January 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm

We listen to A LOT of classical music in our home, but this prelude and Bach remain our favorite! I used to listen to this when I needed some peace while pregnant. And I put this music in to the short video I snuck of my ultrasound, seeing my wee boy wiggling in the womb. Music is magical.

Cassandra January 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Amen, mama. Well spoken. Glorious post!

Carly January 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Beautifully said. I too believe that just as Jesus Christ was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” so we must experience grief and pain. And in the process comes joy, beauty, and the goodness of God. I’m also praying the people of Haiti are able to see the hand of God even amidst their deepest suffering.

Debbie January 14, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Wow!!!! Stephani you have such a beautiful touch with words and thoughts…I knew where you were going with this and just cried tears of sadness and joy!

Andie January 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Your post touched me so deeply. Much too often, I’m not able to look at things that happen in my life in this way. But yet, I know in my heart that what you said is the truth. Thank you.

Kelly January 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Wow. Thank you.

Tammy January 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm


jessica January 14, 2010 at 7:36 pm

*silence* your words so perfectly wrap around the feelings that have stirred in my body these days. thank you.

Regina January 14, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I will never ever listen the same way again!

Jaime January 14, 2010 at 10:13 pm

My husband and I are listening to Bach right now and he says, “I think Bach must have had a red phone straight to the heart of God.” Thank you for your lovely post.

Jessica McCann Dampman January 15, 2010 at 7:09 am

I love how you have connected all of our pasts, presents, and futures through this post. What a gift you have.

LaughingFamily January 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

An incredibly touching post. Thank you for sharing, and for keeping our hearts and minds focused on the right things during this difficult time.

Kristine January 15, 2010 at 11:24 am

This is meaningful. Thank you for weaving this story together, and giving us these images to hold. This is a time for heart-opening.

Mousy Brown January 15, 2010 at 1:09 pm

What a lovely gift to share with your little one and thank you for sharing it with us as well.

Three Boys Farm Mama January 17, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Thank you for a moving and beautiful piece. You are a gem!

Ansley January 17, 2010 at 6:51 pm

thanks mama…..that was beautiful and much needed!

lora January 18, 2010 at 4:56 am

always beautiful, but this was something else… even before you incorporated haiti. you have such an amazing perspective and the gift to put it down this way is making a difference in this reader.
thank you.

elissa January 18, 2010 at 7:26 am


Amy J January 18, 2010 at 8:33 am

Another beautiful post from the heart of a beautiful person. Thank you.

Kris January 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Mega Dittos.

Krista January 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Beautiful. Thank you.

Carrie January 26, 2010 at 9:43 pm

What an incredible post and a beautiful perspective. I have never commented here before, but I couldn’t read this without letting you know how deeply this touched me (and how very much I needed to hear it today). Thank you so much for sharing your lovely thoughts with the wide world. They are a blessing.

SaritaPagita February 2, 2010 at 9:53 am

What a lovely post. I am working on Bach’s minuet 1 right now on the violin and know little about him as a person. Thanks for making me curious to learn more.

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