May Deanery


By Peter Niedmann


“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”
? Dalai Lama XIV

April 15th, as Holy Week in the Christian church had just begun, the world watched in shock and sad disbelief as a great monument of civilization was horrifically consumed by fire. Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the most beautiful and historically important buildings on the planet, seemed to be disappearing before our eyes. When its spire fell, it was like a living creature had been slain. Ultimately, the blaze was extinguished by the firefighters, and we held our collective breath to learn the scope of the damage. And organists were thinking, “what about the organ?” How could such a finely crafted instrument—a sonic sculpture of wood, metal, leather—possibly survive the flames, the smoke, the heat, the debris, and the water?

A few days later, incredible stories and photos from the cathedral organists and curators were reporting the Great organ was unharmed. [The Choir organ, however, was severely damaged by water.] Holy Week was—fittingly—a rollercoaster of emotions, with an unexpected happy ending.

Just two days before the fire, I had received a grim email from a choir member. He and his wife wouldn’t be singing on Palm Sunday. They had driven through the night to Ohio to be with their son, who was having emergency heart surgery. After an episode of severe chest pain, he went to the hospital to learn he had an aortic dissection—a potentially fatal condition. Certainly, that long westward car trip had to be the darkest ever for these two parents.

The heart surgery was successful. And after several days in the hospital, they drove their son to his home, where he and his wife could begin their lives anew.

It’s amazing how seemingly hopeless situations sometimes play out to reveal there was hope there all along.