Oh Sweet Lorraine and Missing Hope

A music studio in Peoria, Illinois recently launched a singer-songwriter contest and asked local musicians to upload their original songs to YouTube. The studio got one song that did not quite meet the requirements, but it was a song that told a story too good to ignore.

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Fred Stobaugh had been married to Lorraine for 73 years before she passed away last year. Now 96 years old, Fred penned a tribute to his wife and titled it, “Oh Sweet Lorraine.” He wrote the lyrics, but was no musician, so simply forwarded the song to the studio in the hope that they might do something with it.

The studio responded by making a professional recording of the song. They released a video that immediately went viral and has already surpassed a million views on YouTube. In the video Fred tells about meeting his wife when she was a car hop at the local A&W, about their 2 years of dating and their 73 years of marriage. “She gave me 75 years of her life.” And then the video transitions to the song:

Oh Sweet Lorraine,
I wish we could do
The Good Times
All over again
Oh Sweet Lorraine
Life only goes around
But never again
Oh Sweet Lorraine,
I wish we could do
The Good Times all over again
The Good Times all over
The memories will always
Linger on
Oh Sweet Lorraine

The memories will
Always Linger on

Go ahead and watch it. (Skip to 5:53 if you’d like to hear only the song.)

The song hits hard; it is difficult to watch the video without tears, to hear the music, to watch Fred’s reaction as he listens to it for the first time. It calls to that part of us that longs for love, that longs for loyal love, that honors the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. Fred has been loved and he has loved the one who loved him. Now that love has been lost and he longs for it to return, he wishes he could go back, that he could relive those days, that he could experience those good times again and again and again after that.

I love Fred’s story and I love Fred’s song. I am grateful to Green Shoe Studio for recording it and giving it to us. Yet I couldn’t help but see that Fred’s love only reaches back. He looks back in time to precious memories, but does not look forward. He expresses wishes, but not hope.

The book of 1 Thessalonians speaks of hope. It tells Christians that we do not have to mourn as those who have no hope, and we must not mourn as those who have no hope, for “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” The Christian has the right and the privilege of hope–not hope as a kind of wish, but hope as a firm confidence.

Those who die knowing Christ do not perish, but rather fall asleep and a moment later awake fully alive, more alive than they have ever been. As John Donne proclaims, “One short sleep past we wake eternally, and death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die.” This is our hope because Jesus Christ is our hope. Our hope is grounded in his finished work. He conquered death so we, too, will conquer death.

On December 18, 2011, R.C. Sproul Jr.’s wife Denise died. Denise went to be with the Lord. Not too long after that the family received another shock when Sproul’s teenaged daughter followed her mother. Sproul shared much of his grief with us through the Ligonier Ministries web site and it has been a deep encouragement to me, and to so many others, to see hope, even through grief. The grief has been real and raw and good, but the hope has been equally real and equally good. He believes, he knows, that his wife is better now than she has ever been. He knows that their relationship has not ended but only just begun and that there are more than mere memories to come.

Just yesterday Ligonier released a video of their own, a 20-minute interview with Sproul on suffering and the sovereignty of God. And what shines through the grief is the very thing missing from Fred’s song: hope. “Oh Sweet Lorraine” is sweet and touching and a tribute to lasting love. R.C.’s interview adds to the love hope and confidence grounded in the gospel. Go ahead and watch it, too.

  • What was it that prompted you to attend worship the morning your wife, Denise, died? (00:49)
  • What enabled you to teach a series on suffering after having just experienced so much? (03:11)
  • Why should we try to “own” the sovereignty of God in the context of suffering? (05:03)
  • Why are those in the contemporary church struggling so much with suffering and the sovereignty of God? (07:48)
  • Why do bad things happen to “good” people? (10:05)
  • When Jesus suffered and died on Calvary, did God suffer? (12:00)
  • How do you hope this series will benefit the church? (14:37)
  • How can Christians encourage those who are in the midst of great hardship? (16:12)
  • How is R.C. Sproul Jr. doing? (18:46)