Diapers and Dragons

Friday, February 19, 2010

In Music, Memoriam

Fraught Mummy at Brits in Bosnia started a meme ages ago, and she tagged me. She instructed us to write about "a song that reminds you of something, that has a story for you. Not necessarily your favourite song or a even a song that you love, but a song that instantly takes you back to that time and place." 

It's a meme that's perfect for me in many ways, because music connects to memory for me All The Time. I have entire soundtracks for times in my life. DraftQueen is my official LifeTrack DJ, in fact, because she always seems to find the perfect song to send me when Things Happen. The problem, therefore, is not thinking of a song, but choosing just one. 

It took me a long while to get around to this post. The timing, therefore, is choosing the song for me. And because of the nature of this post, I can't tag people the normal way. So if you are inspired to carry on this meme, please do.


Four years ago my mother sent out an email asking for some help. My aunt, her only and baby sister, was nearing the end of a long fight with leukaemia. She was in hospice. The toxic side effects of chemo and the gradual failure of her body had made her restless and highly sensitive to sound. She could no longer handle being read to for any length of time. She craved music, but only certain music was bearable. My mother, who had become her main non-medical caretaker in hospice, asked us if we could find and send CDs that were soothing, instrumental only, and uplifting.

I felt helpless, much as I had been feeling for months. I had just born my first baby, the tiny DramaBoy, a couple of months earlier. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and (unknowingly) depressed. My beloved aunt, the one after whom I was named, the one who had cared for me when I was a baby, the one who had fought so hard and so long for all five of her own beloved babes, was dying, and there was nothing I could do.

I looked through the instrumental music racks at Best Buy and Borders. I found a couple of possibilities under the New Age category, but still felt uncertain about my choices. Neither felt quite right.

At that time DramaBoy was up frequently during the night, and I had taken to tuning the satellite tv to the New Age music station. The slow-moving blue title box gave just enough light to maneuvre without waking DramaBoy's father, and the music kept me company and calm. I would sit propped against the pillows to nurse my small son, dazed and halfway dozing while the mainly instrumental music would wash over me.

One night as I stared blankly at whatever was in front of me, DramaBoy suckling peacefully at my breast, I heard a lovely piano piece begin. The melody was what snapped my head up from half-mast. I knew that song. I knew the words. And something about it spoke to me.

The title box informed me that the piece was, indeed, "As The Deer"*, the artist was named David Nevue, and the album was titled Overcome. Realizing that there was no way I would remember this by morning, I grabbed a serendipitous scrap of paper and pen and jotted down the information.

When I looked up the artist and album the next day on Amazon, I discovered, to my amazement, that Nevue (a Christian pianist who specializes in lovely inspirational albums based on hymns and psalms) had composed and recorded the album as his father was dying from cancer. I listened to the progression of songs and knew that this CD was meant for my aunt. I ordered it that day.

My mother told me later that near the end, Overcome was one of only two CDs that my aunt could listen to. Again and again she would ask for it, calling it "[my] CD", using the nickname I went by as a young girl. It was playing that day in March 2006 when she peacefully passed from this world into the next.

I am crying as I write this. My aunt's death is something I have never completely worked through. I am torn between anger that someone so young and so loved, the adoring mother of five very young children, was taken from us too soon and in such a very painful way; and joy that her life AND her death were full of meaning. She and her story touched many lives. She still does.

I could not bring myself to listen to Overcome for years, even though my mother gave me my own copy, as she did many other family members. Last year, as I was working through a different grief and different loss, I finally started listening to it, often at night as I once again struggled to sleep. And finally I was able to find peace in its lovely music rather than torment and grief.

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship Thee

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship Thee

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship Thee
*From Psalm 42

3 bits of love:

mom said...

Thank you, hon. You know, with the 4th anniversary of her parting coming up, these kinds of things are running through my heart thoughts, too. I miss that dear sister, so much. And that music was a gift from heaven, you the channel. It made SUCH a difference. And people would come into her hospital room and ask, "What is that wonderful music?" And the musician, when I wrote and told him how his music was ministering to her, put her on his church's prayer list. Now, I occasionally practice "Overcome" on the piano, remembering. I didn't want to hear the cd for a while, either, but now it back on my listening list. And my heart pants, like the deer. I'm glad that yours does, too.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way about that album! Whenever I listen to it, I cry in memory of our aunt.
Thank you for giving it to her, and to us.

LoriM said...

I'll have to look this up.
I miss her, too.

Whenever I play Fernando Ortega's song, Jesus King of Angels, I think of her too. Another favorite.

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