I want to dedicate this post to my friend Annie who lost her son, Ethan, this past year. The pain of being separated from a child is more than I can imagine. But it will not always be this way Annie. One day…all things will be made new. (For more of Annie's journey and story click here)
I can’t seem to get away from Les Miserables …. So bear with me another post.
Whether you have seen the live musical or the cinema version, Les Miserables is filled with a cast of characters that are easy to become endeared to. In my last post, I wrote about Faninte and her sad story of a life filled with hope only to lead her to prostitution and death. Then there is Jean Valjean. The main character of the story. He served 20 years in jail as a slave. We are talking hard time…brutal conditions. All for stealing some bread, to save his nephew from starvation. They didn’t mess around back then. After his release, he is pretty much screwed and doomed to repeat history out of shear desperation. And he does. But the priest he stole from gave him a second chance. Actually gave him what he stole and told him to use it to make a new life, a life lived for good and for God. And he does. He changed his name and turned his life around. But he broke his parole to do this. Enter Javert. The prison guard/police officer that will hunt Jean Valjean for his entire life. Relentless and unforgiving. He doesn’t care about the good man Valjean has become, only that he broke the law and needs to pay. So, as you can imagine, Valjean spends his life looking over his shoulder, trying to stay clear of Javert. Trying to redeem himself from his past crimes. Trying to make the wrong right.
It is the final scene that I can’t seem to shake. Jean Valjean is in a church, dying, as his daughter begs him not to leave her. He is torn. He loves his daughter but he is tired. So very tired. He has been fighting for so long. As long he can remember. And he knows it is time. As he sits on the edge of these two worlds, Fantine appears to him. She is beautiful and radiant. She is healed and whole. And she sings to him, “Come with me, where chains will never bind you. All your grief at last, at last, behind you. Lord in heaven, look down on him in mercy.” And he lets go. He lets go of the pain, the struggle, the fight. He takes her hand and she leads him from this life to the next life. As she leads him, we see all the characters that had died throughout the story….all healed and whole….triumphantly singing. It is a grand reunion. And something inside me swells. Something inside me cheers. What seemed tragic and final was anything but. It was only a part of the story. A story so much bigger than we could see. The end was not the end but the beginning.
I think the reason this scene touches me so deeply is because I can relate. I think we all can. We know what it is like to struggle in this life. We know pain… deep pain. We know failure. We know loss. We know hopelessness and despair. We know what it is like to get out of bed in the morning and have to fight our way through the day. We know what it is like to be tired… to be done. We live broken lives. With broken relationships and broken bodies and broken minds. We know that the world is not right… and we long for a happy ending. A triumphant ending.
I guess I want to hold on to that. That it will not always be like this. That life will not always be a struggle and a fight. That there will come a day when the pain of this life, as impossible as it seems, will become something of a distant memory. I know that day will come. I don’t know when or how but it will come. I will no longer have to fight. All I will have to do is take the hand of those who have gone before me and let them lead me to the next life. A world where we are all healed and made whole. A world where all the wrongs have been made right. A world where all things are made new.