Wednesday, June 26, 2013

it is well

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

— Horatio G. Spafford, from the hymn "It is Well with My Soul"

Today is my mother's birthday. She would have been 97 (she died in 1997). Mom played piano at church (among many other duties), and this was one of my favorite hymns, partly because every time we sang it in church I remembered the back story of Spafford's life:

"This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the 1871 Great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago which was decimated by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873 at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone . . .". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died." (from Wikipedia)


  1. today is my mother's birthday, too ...

    it is a meaningless coincidence ... except that such coincidences remind us what an unguessable weave of lines and little hooks bind us all together, remind us that existence is shared, not solitary, after all :-)


    1. O it is sweet that our mothers share a birthday. I like adding to our connections (like my grandson's name :).

  2. how is it that i could not read and receive the hymn until i understood the story and then when i did, oh, the hymn itself rolled over me. in the face of such profound and unalterable sorrow, such acceptance (if acceptance is the word). it is difficult to bear the significance and shining of such faith. and beautiful. beautiful and difficult. or perhaps it is only the sorrow that is difficult to bear. in the face of losing one's children, fear enters in and confuses everything for a mother.

    a mother and a daughter. your mother)))) james's))) mine. you and i as mothers. it is all so much.


  3. Mom's birthday, dear sister, and yet this reminds me of Dad, who loved sharing the stories behind the hymns. Now I wonder who got the book he had that told so many of those stories?


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