A friend just posted a piece on that Facebook thingie about her mother, a record changer, Peter Paul and Mary and music coming down the hall to her room at night. She talked about how it soothed her; she, the childhood victim of something unspeakable. And I thought of me (‘cause it’s the easiest thing I do…) at age 17, a college freshman, just beginning EVERYTHING. And how my good friend, Bryan, (who was tall, good looking, smart), killed himself. Richard Corey is still almost too painful to read. I remember where I was when I heard, I remember how I felt. And I remember how listening saved me – or at least, made the pain tolerable. For me it was Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Big Bill Broonze and…Burl Ives (yup, Burl Ives). Mean Ol Southern, Foggy Foggy Dew, Tell Me How You Want Your Rollin’ Done, et al. dropped in turn from the record changer next to my bed. And the last record played on the changer, repeated, over and over. And over. I’m sure my parents could hear it. And my two brothers, sleeping in the next room. But there was no word of admonishment. I think they sensed that it was what I needed. I can’t explain what it was in that experience that gave me comfort. And I’m not going to drone about the “healing power of music,” blah, blah. But it saved me then, late in my 17th year. And I’ve never forgotten it.
The same friend who posted about the record changer and PP&M, left a comment about what we remember in our final moments. And prompted me - again - to comment on an experience I had just today (8/14/14). I visited a dear friend, Yvonne, who is the parish secretary of Christ Lutheran Church, where I attend. She had just returned from Atlanta where she had been with her mother in the old lady’s final moments. Yvonne is Irish, born and raised in Dublin. She has a stunningly beautiful singing voice – and worked professionally all over Europe before coming to this country. She sings occasionally at church (not often enough to suit me) and gave a concert about 3 months ago at a church in Parkersburg, WVA. It was boffo. Well attended, packed, actually. Across the aisle from where I was sitting, sat an older woman. I had no idea who she was, but she seemed transfixed by what was happening on stage. And – she was mouthing the words to almost every song sung. There was something about her that made me (discreetly) take out my iPhone and shoot a video of this wonderful reaction. Yvonne sang Danny Boy. The old lady joining in a silent duet. I thought I’d show it later to Yvonne; “see what you do to people…!” After the concert, I was introduced to the subject of my clandestine video, “...and this is Moira, Yvonne’s mother.” Oh, um, pleased to meet you. Today, Yvonne told me about Moira’s final moments. About how Yvonne and her sisters, Sinade and Kathleen, (who had flown in from Ireland) stood by her bed and sang. They sang many of Moira’s favorites, with Sinade and Kathleen hitting the harmonies around Yvonne’s soprano. And I’m sure the old lady’s face looked much the same as it did three months ago, sitting in that pew. Music. Again.