It’s Act II of the Lion King on Broadway, 2005. I’m sitting between my father’s best friend, Mr.Steve, and his daughter, Danielle. Mr.Steve’s wife is on his other side, and my mother next to her. Danielle’s brother is next to her and my brother on the other side.
The backdrop changes to a night sky. Simba steps out and begins to sing:
Where has the starlight gone? Dark is the day. How can I find my way home? Home is an empty dream, lost to the night.
I’m loving every second of the production. I feel present, which is a rarity for me at the time.
Father, I feel so alone.
I’m fourteen years old and my father died a month ago.
You promised you’d be there, whenever I needed you .
I know this feeling.
Whenever I call your name, you’re not anywhere. I’m trying to hold on, waiting to hear your voice. Just a word, a word will do, to end this nightmare.
I’m not caught off guard by the content itself. I know the movie and Mufasa died in Act I. But to hear this pain expressed clearly is an experience that I haven’t had. And that does catch me off guard.
When will the dawning break, oh endless night? Sleepless I dream of the day when you were by side, guiding my path. Father, I can’t find the way.
I’m just really hoping I don’t cry. Not that I wouldn’t be comforted, I just hate to cry. With each line I feel dread that I might cry, and surprised at how much I resonate with the lyrics.
You promised you’d be there, whenever I needed you. Whenever I call your name, you’re not anywhere. I’m trying to hold on, waiting to hear your voice. Just a word, a word will do, to end this nightmare.
I haven’t heard any song that so purely expressed how I feel, and at the same time lasted for so long. Every movie/TV scene, song or devotional touches on the pain for a moment and then moves on.
With each line I feel surprise that it’s continuing. As Simba closes the last line, I’m sure it’s over now.
I know that the night must end, at that the sun will rise, and that the sun will rise. I know that the clouds must clear and that the sun will shine, and that the sun will shine.
My heart leans forward. If I felt surprised before, I feel stunned now.
I know that the night must end, and that the sun will rise, and that the sun will rise. I know that the clouds must clear and that the sun will shine, and that the sun will shine.
My mother says this. Not these exact words, but essentially. That I will always miss him but that eventually my grief will be like a broken bone. That when the wind blows just right, it’ll ache but it won’t hurt all the time. I believe her, but this might be the first time I’ve heard someone else express it with such certainty.
I know! (I know that the night must end) Yes, I know, the sun will rise (And that the sun will rise). Yes, I know! (I know that the clouds must clear) I know, the clouds must clear! (And that the sun will shine, and that the sun will shine)
This is also the first time I’ve heard this expressed with such celebration. With each line I feel stunned delight that this whole song is about how I feel and hope to feel in the future.
I know that the night must end.
I know that the sun will rise.
Someone knows with confidence that it will be OK. It’s not just church platitudes.
And I’ll hear your voice deep inside.
Comfort jumps into my chest. I think I smile.
I know that the night must end, and that the clouds must clear. Oh, the sun, the sun will rise!
I am fourteen years old and my father died a month ago. And I’m so grateful at how uplifted I feel right now.
The sun, the sun will rise!
I’m so grateful for this moment.
I lean forward a little and turn to look at my mom. She’s doing the same. We exchange a little nod as if to say, “Glad you’re OK, and I heard it too”
I would later buy the Broadway Cast Recording and I would listen to that song on repeat. I would just sit in the car or in my room with my portable CD player and listen to it again, and again, and again. It was such a comfort to me, and one that I desperately needed.
Strangely enough, I hadn’t thought about that song in years. It came back to mind while I was talking to my friend Mimi about our grief experiences (keeping our friendship light and fun, ya know). I went to the album on Spotify and I was immediately back in that theatre. The memory came back to me vividly and a new-found gratefulness for it emerged.
Grateful for the community we had, and still have. Grateful that I was given such needed “Seen and Loved” moment. Grateful that this is the art form I’m immersed in (I wonder if subconsciously this moment set that in motion). Grateful for Mr.Steve, The Redmonds, our neighbors, Riverside Community Church, and anyone who made sure that we could still find pockets of joy in our lives.
It’s been 15 years since my father passed. The song promised me that the night would end and that the sun would rise.
And I’m forever grateful to the people, the scriptures, the music, and the stories that got me through the night.
[Endless Night can be heard here]