Years ago I shared with my family a lesson I had observed in the lives of extraordinary people. I noted that the blessing to walk with such giants for a season of life had inspired and strengthened, challenged and taught, nurtured and blessed my life. These giants included a beloved farmer, an angel who departed this life too soon, a neighbor and numerous teachers, coaches, religious leaders, friends and writers. Each individual, in very different ways, demonstrated the powerful principle of living life in crescendo.
It has been said that your life is a symphony, and you create your own magnum opus. Few things stir the soul like the sound of a symphony. But why speak of music in the context of learning from fellow travelers in life? Because the journey of life and the elements of music share much in common. Music and a life well lived can produce an echo that rings down through the ages filled with lessons and learning.
A symphony is a story in song, a story moving through seasons and stages often depicting and echoing mortal life in notes and nuance. The journey of a symphony is wrought with the unexpected. A soft, slow beginning turns to unexpected excitement, followed by moments of melancholy. A passionate pursuit gives way to the steady but occasionally monotonous beat of daily routine. Spirits race and soar as scales rise and fall to heights and depths, and then at just the right place, the powerful pause of a needed rest renews and refreshes before the journey continues into another stanza and a new season begins. As the seasons change and the music matures, what began as a simple but pleasant melody can become a rich and rousing rhapsody. Then, looking back over the story of the symphony, it is easy to discern that each season has a reason, each pattern a purpose, each transition a transforming touch.
In music, the element that engages the audience the most is the crescendo. Nothing enthralls a listener more than the building, swelling, moving, magical momentum of crescendo. The best of symphonies feature moments of crescendos in each movement. The people who have had the greatest impact on my life are individuals who live life in crescendo. And that is one of life’s greatest challenges — to live each season of life in crescendo.
Clearly, one current crescendo-liver is Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. People the world over are astounded by President Nelson’s inexhaustible energy. At 94½ years of age, it is difficult to fathom how he is able to maintain a relentless schedule of travel, meetings, conferences and personal ministry. At an age when many retreat to a rocking chair or coast in for a landing, he regularly makes the Energizer Bunny look like a low-motor, light-weight tree sloth. He is the epitome of living life in crescendo. But what most people don’t recognize is how the energetic crescendo of his life and ministry infuses others with the inspired vigor necessary to drive toward new heights of Christian discipleship.
Like the master maestro he serves, President Nelson understands that there is a cadence to character, a rhythm to righteousness and a tempo to trust. The kind of discipleship and Christ-centered living he invites others to pursue is a spiritual symphony in the making. It is a way of being where arriving, retiring or retreating are not options — pursuing the crescendo at every stage of life is the lesson he lives.
It is important to note that living in crescendo doesn’t require living into your 90s. There are crescendos to strive for in every stage and season of life. Far too many give up on the possibility of a great climactic moment to a particular period of life far too soon. Finishing a semester of school on a high note, wrapping up a current job or project with extraordinary effort or enduring one of life’s challenges to its end are all opportunities to pursue the possibility of crescendo. Abandoning and giving up too soon leads to regrets and the haunting refrain of “what might have been.”
A brief life can carry the same powerful lessons. In fact, one life that forever touched mine for good was the very short but crescendo-filled life of little Clara. She was my niece’s “Little Miss Sunshine” who brought an abundance of light into the day of everyone she met. Her three years of life on earth were quite literally a crescendo of faith, resolve, hope and especially grace. An angel on earth and in heaven, Clara’s life continues to crescendo as her influence rings out in chords of loving memories, resounds in the reminders of smiles and happy moments, and stirs the soul through her gentle, heavenly tugs that define her mighty mission while she continues to be the answer to prayer for many.
Whether any particular season of life is short or long, easy or hard, the drive toward the swelling strains of the crescendo always creates the greatest joy, the biggest blessings and the most lasting legacy. I am most thankful for the examples of crescendo-living from an ever-striving, perpetually pushing President Nelson, the influential and ever-inspiring little Clara and many, many others. Let the symphony of life and the lessons it contains play on.