Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – February 13, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – February 13, 2004 – I was listening to the radio today as I worked in my office when the song Shenandoah came across the airwaves. My thoughts were immediately flooded with memories of my Mother – Mary.
She loved that piece, especially the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version. My Mother died in 1989 after struggling for 8 years with Alzheimer’s disease. I was in Europe on vacation when she passed away and flew home for her funeral. My father had already planned her service, but he wanted my input on the music, so I met with the minister who was going to attend at the church service.
I sat down beside the organist and she started to play some serious sounding classical music. After a few bars it became heavier and duller. It sounded like music Brutus might have played at a lunch for Caesar on the Ides of March. It was a funereal dirge and I was appalled. I turned to the minister and expressed my dismay, commenting that it seemed rather oppressive and dark.
This certainly was not an occasion for a light hearted Scottish reel, but I didn’t feel the need to further deplete the energies of those family members and friends in attendance at my Mother’s farewell. The minister took great umbrage, the organist glared and I got my way.
Mary’s coffin entered the church to the strains of Ave Marie. During the service Shenandoah and Danny Boy were played and she exited into the sunshine, for her final ride, to the beautiful melody of Amazing Grace. It was fitting music for a memorable woman. I know wherever she was that day, her face was radiant and her heart thankful.
Listening to that piece of music today also made me recall the many times that Mary and I stood in front of the kitchen sink in our family home, doing the dishes together, and singing “The Wayward Wind is a restless wind, a restless wind that yearns to wander – and I was born the next of kin – the next of kin to the wayward wind”. I think at some level that music touched a deep longing in my Mother’s heart – for chances not taken and dreams never realized. Neither she nor I could carry a tune with a wheelbarrow, but we belted out that song with such delicious abandon that it didn’t matter. This is a such precious, wonderful memory for me.
I spent an amazing summer evening, years ago, sitting on a hillside overlooking Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. I happened upon a pipe band playing for a large crowd of tourists. I sat down on the grass and listened for three hours as that kilted, gathering of Scotsmen entertained us. I have always loved the bagpipes, but after that evening the sound became part of my soul.
Whenever I hear a piper, I’m transported back to the balmy July night thirty years ago. I can hear that band all over again and feel the soft breeze on my arms as I sat there. I remember the tears rolling down my face, but I wasn’t the least bit bothered by this public display of emotion. I wasn’t the only person crying.
I love Van Morrison singing almost anything – but “Brown Eyed Girl” makes me think of summer, Bruce Springsteen belting out “The Promised Land” makes me think I can do anything, Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock” makes me stand taller, the music to “Rocky” makes me air box (I refrain from running up the 300 steps), whenever I hear Helen Reddy singing “I Am Woman” I want to dance on a table, Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman” makes me believe in love, Barbra Streisand’s ‘Evergreen” makes me melancholy (but in a good way), Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” brings back memories of boyfriends past. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” sparks a sense of longing. Whenever I hear a favourite piece of music, a memory is stirred back into awareness.
How amazing that the connection between music and memory is so instinctive and vital. What a joy to be a singer or a musician, and to share this God-given talent with others. How wonderful to have music at our disposal any time, anywhere – to uplift our spirits or to soothe our hearts in times of sorrow. This amazing, universal gift is one that I’m thankful for every single day. Go ahead, turn on the radio. Regardless of the circumstances of your life, if you let it, music will enrich your soul and gladden even the heaviest, world-weary heart.