Saturday, January 19, 2008


I have been thinking about music for a while. The expression, "The soundtrack of your life" comes to mind.

In 2006, before Katie became sick, we went to Vancouver, BC to see the musical Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was a real "event" for Katie (and me); she had been watching the movie and listening to the music over and over. The staging and costumes were gorgeous, the voices and characters beautiful. We learned the words to many of the songs. We were enjoying Mamma Mia, the musical by ABBA, and knew much of it by heart, as well. We saw that show as a family in Seattle. When Gregg and I saw it the first time, with another couple who have kids, three of the four of us were in tears over the lyrics to "Slipping Through My Fingers," which is sung my a mother about her daughter growing up and moving away, and how fast it happened...with many of their plans unfulfilled.

During the wonderful summer of 2006, I was captivated by a song recorded by the group Tree63 called Blessed Be Your Name. If you haven't heard it, it is worth a listen. The lyrics are based upon the story of Job -- not one of my favorites, but a great teaching story, nonetheless. Some of the words are: "Blessed be Your name, when the sun's shining down on me, when the world's all as it should be, blessed be Your name. Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering, when there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name. Every blessing You pour out I turn back to praise; when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, Blessed be the name of the Lord." I could not get that song out of my head that summer, and sang it and listened to it in my car over and over again, into the autumn. I prayed it, I suppose...and when the crap hit the fan, and we learned how sick Katie was, I remember singing it through tears of anger and shock and fear in my car. I did not want to turn against God, and the lyrics took on new meaning in the scariest, darkest circumstances of my life.

When the diagnosis came, I started hearing a song in my head by R.E.M. (thanks for identifying this, Kathleen) called "It's the End of the World." It has a very aggressive sound, and the words I kept hearing were "It's the end of the world as we know it!" That was true!

As the months in the hospital wore on, I heard more of the music of Katie's favorite TV shows and movies in my head (and in the room). Hannah Montana, Life with Derek, Phil of the Future, as well as themes from Harry Potter and songs from White Christmas, The Court Jester, High Society...there are too many to list.

As Katie became bedridden this summer, I started to hear Eva Cassidy singing "Over the Rainbow," and though it is a gorgeous rendition of that song, it would make me very sad. Gregg vetoed that for use in Katie's Celebration of Life, saying that it would make everyone cry. (Our friend Linda, who is an opera singer, went into a park in Germany and sang it for us, at the same time as we were holding the Celebration of Katie in Poulsbo.)

For the soundtrack to the slideshow of Katie's life, we chose her "baby song" --the one I used to sing and dance to, holding Katie in my arms in front of the mirror, so she could see herself --which is "Sun on the Moon" by James Taylor. The rest of the soundtrack to the slideshow was JT's "Shed a Little Light," and two songs from Mamma Mia, which Katie loved: "Thank you for the Music" and "I Have a Dream."

Since her passing, I still occasionally listen to Eva Cassidy, but the music that is the most cathartic for me right now is Jackson Browne's CD "I'm Alive." It is a post-breakup CD, and it is passionate, angry, heartbroken, survival music. It's great to race-walk to that and punch the air.

We are in Whistler, BC, this weekend, and on the drive up here, the soundtrack to Mamma Mia was playing. When the song, "Slipping Through My Fingers" came on, I sat in the back seat of the car and cried. It has become too true for me.

Today, I hiked around the village while the family went skiing and snowboarding. I enjoyed the quiet of the snow falling and the silence of the trees standing by the road with snow on their branches. I enjoyed the effort it takes to walk through the snow, and the solitude. It helps me right now to have alot of time alone, to hear my thoughts and to talk to God. I noticed how many of the people who were also out walking were listening to music as they walked. Is it the soundtrack of their lives, or just filler? When the sun came out, I returned to the condo to write down a few musical thoughts.


Maggie said...

I found your blog through Katie's Caringbridge site. I was very taken with Katie when I read her story. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

I lost my mom to cancer a year ago and its been devastating. I'm a single parent to a beautiful four year old little girl name Madelyn, she is such a bright light in my life. Not having my mom has certainly left a huge hole.

I wanted to thank you for your honesty and sharing your journey. I'm not sure what my soundtrack is, but life is to precious to just coast through with "fillers".

I am praying for your family.

Karla W. said...

Heidi shared on her blog how when Samara was diagnosed with cancer that she mentally picked out what Samara would wear at her funeral and what songs they would have for the service.

My grandma was a huge ABBA fan and the one song that reminds me of her so much is "I Believe in Angels" Grandma was a daycare provider for over forty years. Her daycare was "Hitchcock's Daycare for Precious Angels" She had angel everything...not cherubs, but angels.

When Grandma died one of the songs sung was "When at Night I go to Sleep." It is the song that always came to mind for Samantha. My favorite arrangement is my Charlotte Church, I think she was twelve when she sang it.

Isn't music such a wonderful gift. We can use it to express so much, more than just words alone.

WoodenHue said...

I love that Eva Cassidy has a place in your musical life: after my father died I listened to her version of Fields of Gold over and over and over and over; it is still on most of my favorite mix CDs, and still brings me to tears, though I don't remember ever having liked the original version (sung by a man, I think).

Since Katie was diagnosed I have been listening to a lot of John Mayer; I think the "Gravity" of it all is what keeps me in that space...

Sheri said...

The Phantom soundtrack never leaves my car. I have sung "Think of me" over and over as I reminisce about Joseph and hope someone will think to play it at my own funeral one day.

I too have a lot of musical communication in my head. Sometimes sound says what the heart cannot, or at least makes it easier to get it out.

I hope you are enjoying your time. Walking in the pristine, almost sacred silence of a snowfall sounds so cathartic to me. It snowed for seven days (in Dallas!) when Joseph died and I always "hear" him when the flakes fall. We have had none yet this year and I am not sure if that is good or bad.

I am thinking of you.