a hymn of mourning
by Leo E. Johns III
(hear it - mp3 format)
On December 22, 1999, the night of the brightest full moon between 1930 and 2052,
my grandmother Cora Ayers Johns died in Texas in her 105th year:
“…I thought it appropriate that last night’s brilliant display of moonlight,
which I saw for a few hours as I reflected on life, love and sad circumstance,
seemed to illustrate the radiance of the life of my grandmother.
She told me years ago that she could not understand why she could not die
and go to meet her Lord. The timing of her death we may never understand,
but her life was crystalline light, reflecting love to all.”
(from 1999 email to family and friends)
I wrote the first limes of this poem in late 1997 as my friend Betty Rose Motley
was dying from her cancer - just after I saw Betty hold my newborn son Corey
for the first and last time. Death was a surrounding reality at that time -
my wife's grandmother was also nearing the end of her life. I completed the lyric,
and later the song, in 1999, and read it during my Grandmother's eulogy.
I was very very sad that my disabled father could not travel to Floresville with us
to bury his mom.
My father Dr. Leo Johns died in April 2005. I performed "Elegy" for the 1st (and so far, last)
time with vocalist Ron Gutierrez and cellist Evan Smalley at Dad's Memorial Service.
In sober pause we humbly kneel
Acknowledging Your perfect plan.
And, drawing strength from love’s rebirth,
We shed the common dust of earth
And frailty of man
To claim our place at life’s full feast.
With friends and family by our side
We mourn the life so rich and bright
With memories,bathed in brilliant light,
That You alone provide.
For Christ has died that this is so.
He drew His breath upon that hill
And stretched His hand to take the nail
To prove that death might not prevail
And show love conquers still.
We see the flesh,as seasons wane,
Fight to defy its sad decrease.
But, taking comfort at life's close,
We trust that now his spirit knows
Your holy realm of peace.
He’s not alone on life’s last road
To where the soul’s from body free:
Uplifted by strong angel's wings
And by the hymns his family sings
Towards fellowship with Thee.
And so we weep these mortal tears
Reflecting on life’s trials, and pain.
His race has ended…
His work is done.
But, brilliant as the setting sun,
Sweet memories remain.
. . . . .
Performance musicians at Dad's
4/22/05 Memorial Service:
Ron Gutierrez, Vocal
Leo "Bud" Johns, Piano
Evan Smalley, Cello
(What's an Elegy? It's a mournful, sorrowful poem.
See the Wikipedia definition...)
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