Music has always been a part of my life. From early childhood memories of vibrating piano strings filling our house as my father practiced church hymns for the upcoming Sunday service, to distant memories of tagging along to my sister’s music lessons, sitting on a chair and swinging my feet to the basic rhythmic concepts being discussed and practiced. Eventually it would be my turn to sit with the instructor as I learned to purposefully bounce sticks or strike the wooden keys of a xylophone with precise influence and timing. My instruction only took me to the point of appreciation, a realization of just how much talent, skill and effort is required to truly create art. I have always carried this appreciation in my life, as a shared interest with friends, as a soundtrack to road trips and adventures, as a reason to continue to lug dusty instruments from house to house, as a topic used to continue the conversation with the cute girl in the black sweater that would eventually become my wife and the mother to my three children.
So, it is no surprise that in empty days following our return home from the hospital, we quickly decided that music would be incorporated into Lydie’s memorial service. There were songs that we immediately latched on to, and others we sought out, borrowing their words at a time when we struggled to find the breath for our own. We began her service in unison, singing a favorite hymn from Heather’s childhood, I read the poetic words from a folk song as we passed between us a single flame to light up the whole room, and we sat together in silence as we dreamed of floating alongside a little girl among skies of blue and clouds of white. We made copies of Lydia’s playlist, wrote her name on each cover, and gave them to friends and family in hopes that they may find the same little girl that we did, hidden in each verse and chorus.
Afterwards, what began as a daily ritual on my commute home, naturally and silently slowed to a less frequent activity. But still today, boxed in and idling two feet above the earth, I often lose myself within the very words that I could barely choke out two years ago.
And there is a ribbon of her in my heart. It gives and it takes like a drug.
—Breath of Love, The David Mayfield Parade
They are songs of grief and death and the intersection of life and loss that is my permanent residence. These are the melodies I frantically return to each time I feel I have lost her again, clinging to each syllable when the strum of grief reverberates throughout my hollow body. They are the exact same words that remind me that I will always be able to find her in the deepest parts of my soul, that she will forever be a part of me.
And I’m afraid to sleep because of what haunts me. Such as, living with the uncertainty that’ll I never find the words to say which would completely explain just how I’m breaking down.
—Sleeping Sickness, City and Colour
These songs are an escape even in the darkest of times, when the air is thick with fear and paranoia. When I slink away from casual conversation before I am asked to share or, if I am not quick enough, I provide only the framework, leaving out our family’s bright colors we have worked so hard to capture, the colors that are so often lost on others as muted dark grays and black.
No one saw it coming, and no one sees it still. Empty space and memories, too beautiful for me.
—Beautiful, Trampled by Turtles
They are explanations for things with no explanation; a kind gesture from an acquaintance, a timely gift from an unknowing coworker, all happening at the most vulnerable of moments. Blind to everyone else and occurring at a rare frequency, but with such precise timing that it cannot be ignored that perhaps someone or something is pulling at the frayed edges, pushing precise gusts of wind and nudging each little piece of everyday life in order to deliver the subtlest of love notes. These are words that remind me that there are just some moments that make it impossible to deny that this universe can be a beautiful mess.
December never felt so wrong, ‘cause you’re not where you belong; inside my arms.
—Winter Song, Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson
And sometimes, these are songs that reach into my chest and grab the very words that constantly echo throughout my body.
Do you have a song on repeat? Have you found comfort in certain poems or books?