A Lament (What Do I Make of You?)

Fifteen years ago, at the end of May, 2001, Anthony Rivetti, Tara’s father and my father-in-law, died after a hard journey with cancer. He was a man of deep integrity, fierce devotion, and winsome hospitality. I wish all of you could have known him.  Every day, Tony’s presence in the world is dearly missed.

A couple of months before Tony’s death, I sat at the piano, which is where I frequently go when I am confronted by things that I cannot easily accommodate in my spirit.  Strangely, as my fingers touched a variety of keys, I began to think about what I would say to cancer if cancer were personified–if I were able to converse with cancer the way I would a person.  At the time, it was a spontaneous means by which to give expression to my ever-deepening grief.  Those thoughts, combined with the notes I was playing, eventually became a song of lament.

On the fifteenth anniversary of Tony’s death, I share the song here, hoping to honor both his memory and his legacy, and hoping to remind myself–and perhaps others–that cancer and death, while bitter and painful, are never given the final word to speak.

Lament (What Do I Make of You?)–sung by Tara and Eric Park

Frailty interrupts a life with whispering voice

Unceremonious, waits not for one’s choice

All delusions of invincibility

Fade like flickering dreams not meant to be


You’ve been among us for a year and a half by now

You manifest your presence in the furrows of his brow

He so patiently ponders all you’ve done

While quietly wondering when you’ll end what you’ve begun


So what do I make of you?

I refuse to deify or dread or demonize your power

So what do I make of you?


The precision of your movement almost seems absurd

You function with a mind of your own, or so I’ve heard

Unresponsive to tears shed over you

Unrepentant, you do what you will do


This one whose body you’ve seen fit to occupy

This one whose courage you could only magnify

He so gracefully holds all the things he’s heard

While you are unimpressed and undeterred


So what do I make of you?

I refuse to deify or dread or demonize your power

So what do I make of you?


I’m convinced that neither death nor life will ever separate us

From the One whose Word is heard above the claims of random fate

I’m convinced that neither height nor depth nor demons anywhere

Will break the covenant that we in grace are privileged to share


His mortality makes its presence known

Unceremonious, chills one to the bone

He so faithfully prays all the prayers he knows

Glimpsing eternity as the cancer grows


So what do I make of you?

I refuse to deify or dread or demonize your power?

So what do I make of you?

I suppose that in the long run I’ll look past you

To the One who hides your meaning deep within the things of providence


Frailty interrupts a life with whispering voice


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