(A note to why I rewrote this. I felt that my words sounded more like a literary summary instead of what I was truly feeling, so I rewrote it.)
Dedicated to my father, Robert, who loves this story as much as I do and who is the most unselfish, loving, and kind a man I know.
There is a spiritual quality to this story that is hard to describe, but you can feel it. When I first heard the music more than 20 years ago, I fell in love almost instantly. It was almost as if I’d known the story and the music before, but not with my mortal ears.
These characters have touched me throughout my life in personal and unforgettable ways. With Eponine, I understood all too well what it was like to feel the misery of unrequited love. Even now, my heart still aches at times for the woman who died in the arms of the man who was blind to her love. Only in the last bittersweet moments of her life could she reveal the depth of her feeling. But it was her love that, in many ways, saved Marius so he could live and marry Cosette. It was the greatest act of love she could offer.
But I think it is the story of Jean Valjean that stays with me the most. Here is a man who has had the cruelest of injustices placed upon him as he spends more than 20 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. As he finally gets to leave, he is met with disdain everywhere and just at the moment when he is about to give up, the compassion and kindness of a priest change everything convincing Jean Valjean to turn his life over to God.
To me, the most powerful and poignant moment of the show is when Jean Valjean sings “Bring Him Home” (See link and note below). It is the culmination of all that Jean Valjean has learned through living a selfless life. And maybe this is why it holds me mesmerized every time I watch it or listen to it. It’s a prayer that is sung with the most intense sincerity and humility someone can utter…to offer their life in exchange for another. It is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate gift of love. How appropriate that this post comes at Easter time reminding us of another who gave His all for us.
Maybe that is why the story of “Les Miserables” has stood the test of time and why it seems more important now than ever before. In this world today, where wars, terrorism, and hardened people spew out so much hatred, the unconditional love shown in this story is a hopeful reminder that kindness, mercy and humanity will ultimately win.
But I don’t believe anything I say will fully express what the music and story mean to me. Sometimes there just aren’t words to describe something that touches you to the core of your being. It’s so beautiful that it’s as if a small part of heaven reaches down and brushes across your soul. For a moment, the veil lifts…and you remember what heaven feels like.
(A note on this version of “Bring Him Home” which is linked below. Alfie Boe sang this with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir only days after the Sandy Hook tragedy where the lives of so many young innocent children were lost. It is said in rehearsal, he couldn’t even get through the song. Look at the tears in his eyes and you will see the emotion in them as he sings for the children who were lost that day.)