from review in Songfacts:
The title track from Lucinda Williams' fourth studio album has the singer remembering a loved one who has committed suicide, wondering whether he knew he was loved and recalling all of the tender moments he left behind.
"With this song, when I sing it I ask myself if I have to go back to that place. Am I able to do that? And my answer is yes," Williams explained in an A.V. Club interview: "It was one of the first songs where I wrote about suicide, and the whole idea and shock of it. People responded in a lot of different ways, but the majority said things like, 'This song helped me get through this,' or 'My brother committed suicide. Thank you for writing this song.' For me it's like the experiences I've had firsthand really demand an honesty. That kind of full disclosure and reality is something the audience connects to so strongly, especially with this one. People's responses were incredible.
One time I was singing on a radio show, and this woman called in later and said, 'I heard that song, and it made me change my mind. I was thinking about ending it all.' It's just had such a profound impact on people."
"I recently had to put my grandmother to sleep from a long bout with cancer as fluid was rising to her throat, and I can only imagine what my mother must go through to try to sleep each night, after, for weeks, barely stirring so as to carefully listen to her mother's breathing through the night. I know only that that call which Williams returns to repeatedly, facing sometimes the impossibility of a response, asks the only thing i want to know, absolutely -- just hear sometimes -- from someone I love who is frequently gone."
-- Cortnay, NPR, Music to Fall in Love With, explaining why she loves the song.
“There is presence in apparent absence, the proof of which, these poems remind us, is memory, affections, and language. And so comes this book—elegant elegy, tenderly made—which sparks in turn deepened attention to what is. “If only making love did not also make loss,” Hutchins writes. But in this moving work, making loss makes love.” —Forrest Hamer, author of Rift and Middle Ear
“Who can bear history?” Hutchins asks hauntingly throughout this volume… [It] seems at times a moral imperative (to imagine evil, as Robert Duncan famously urged of Denise Levertov), but at other times in Tender the Maker, it is Life’s unrepeatable, glorious Mystery, on which this beautiful collection so tenderly muses.” --From the foreword by Cynthia Hogue, Judge
Hutchins’s awareness of how spirituality may imbue our acts of creation goes deep – she is, after all, a professor in theology, among other things – but these are not poems of faith, per se, as they eschew any kind of stilted sacralization, but rather poems that tend towards the mysteries of creation, that attempt, simply put, to restore our faith in the act of writing. –Fjord’s Review
It dwells upon the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love; and it finds purpose in the present immediacy of a kingdom not of this world. Love neither rules, nor is it unmoved; also it is a little oblivious as to morals. It does not look to the future; for it finds its own reward in the immediate present. (Whitehead, Process and Reality)
The image— and it is but an image— the image under which this operative growth of God's nature is best conceived,, is that of a tender care that nothing be lost. (Whitehead, Process and Reality)
He saves the world as it passes into the immediacy of his own life. It is the judgment of a tenderness which loses nothing that can be saved. It is also the judgment of a wisdom which uses what in the temporal world is mere wreckage. (Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality)
God, tenderly saving the turmoil of the intermediate world by the completion of his own nature. The sheer force of things lies in the intermediate physical process: this is the energy of physical production. God's rôle is not the combat of productive force  with productive force, of destructive force with destructive force; it lies in the patient operation of the overpowering rationality of his conceptual harmonization. (Whitehead, Process and Reality)
It is the business of philosophical theology to provide a rational understanding of the rise of civilization, and of the tenderness of mere life itself, in a world which superficially is founded upon the clashings of senseless compulsion. (Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas)
Something is still lacking. It is difficult to state it in terms that are wide enough...Apart from it, the pursuit of ‘Truth, Beauty, Adventure, Art’ can be ruthless, hard, cruel...The notions of ‘tenderness’ and of ‘love’ are too narrow, important though they be. We require the concept of some more general quality, from which ‘tenderness emerges as a specialization. We are in a way seeking for the notion of a Harmony of Harmonies, which shall bind together the other four qualities. (Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas)
The life of Christ as a revelation of the nature of God and of his agency the world . . . The Mother, the Child, and the bare manger: the lowly man, homeless and self-forgetful, with his message of peace, love, and sympathy: the suffering, the agony, the tender words as life ebbed, the final despair: and the whole with the authority of supreme victor. (Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas)