Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Song That Does Me In -- Every Time, Anywhere

Early one morning, less than a week before Mom died, on the day that she was to slip most profoundly away from us and retreat deeply into herself, my brother Chris sat next to her pillow, opened his iMac, tilted the screen so Mom could see it see it, and clicked "start."

For just just under five minutes that morning, the voice of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole filled the room as Mom silently watched a slideshow that Chris had made of his three gleeful and adorable daughters. As the song so sweetly depicted life, energy and youth, and the photos depicted Mom's grandchildren laughing and smiling, Mom was slipping undeniably away from us. At first, for just a fleeting moment, I silently wondered whether it was cruel to play such a beautiful song about the magnificence of life at a time when death was undeniably and persistently present, but then I saw just a hint of a smile come to Mom's face and, even as the single tear streamed silently down her cheek, she never took her eyes of the screen until the song was over, and then, exhausted, she slipped into a deep sleep.

Neither Chris nor I moved nor said a word for a long time after the song ended. Tears streamed silently down our faces, too, that morning and we were at once immeasurably bonded and newly alone. Eventually, we tucked Mom in and left the room, both of us somehow changed by the experience.

I didn't cry again that week, not even six days later when Mom died. And, for some reason that I still don't really understand, I didn't cry for months after that. Until one day when I was at Safeway, strolling mindlessly down the isles, in search of pimientos or pistachios or peanut better. On the speaker system that filled the store with mindless background music, the song that Chris had played for Mom, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," began to play. Instantly something welled up from deep inside me, and before I could hide in a bathroom or leave the store, I was sobbing.

I've heard that song many times since then, and every time the same thing happens: no matter where I am, what I'm doing or what mood I'm in, I
begin to cry, suddenly and uncontrollably.

Today I was in the car, driving home from work after a particularly stressful day. My mind was on project management -- the meetings I needed to set up at Microsoft, the technical writer I need to hire, the document I'm submitting to our client. I was driving along 156th, "Microsoft Boulevard," directly in front of the main campus, with employees crossing the street in front of me as I rolled to a stop.

Suddenly the strumming ukulele music began, and within seconds I was sobbing almost uncontrollably. I could hear Mom's voice and feel her presence, and instantly I desperately wanted her with me -- just as I do every time I hear this song. Once the song ended I was fine again and my thoughts went back to tasks on my calendar and project briefs to complete. But for five minutes I was worlds away from corporate concerns and "critical agendas." I was immersed in what really, truly matters: love, family, and connections.

Maybe the reason why this song is so impactful every time I hear it is because I'm being reminded to simply STOP EVERYTHING, let go, and instead of fretting about groceries or gross revenues, I'm being gently (or not so gently!) reminded to be thankful for the true blessings of my life.

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Home's Jewels said...

Isn't it amazing how music can move one so very deeply? I tend to connect songs with emotional periods in my life, too.

G in Berlin said...

Maybe it's part of losing someone you love, or part of being a mother and growing older and realizing that, not only are our children's lives fragile, but that one day we will leave them and be left by our parets: but I cry uncontrollably, quietly, wheneve I hear that song too.In your case, I understand. In mine, I start to wonder why. (But Puff the Magic Dragon does it to me as well).

The time with your mom, and your brother, sounds beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I have the same reaction every time I put my CD of Bruch's Violin Concerto on. It was my mom's favorite. Luckily for me, it's not very likely I will ever hear that on the radio while driving.

San Diego Momma/Two Funny Brains said...

I love that song too.

It's funny, I was just thinking about my mom today and read this.

Thanks for sharing it. It's good to read someone who understands


Anonymous said...

What a sad but great connection this song has for you. This song sets my priorities straight whenever I hear it. It means love and fleeting time to me...

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