Thursday, August 12, 2010

music hath charms

My Dad loved music. Ellie and I have mentioned several times that Dad always had a song playing in his head, and that those songs seeped out in the form of whistles and bursts of singing or humming or la da de da de daaaaaa ing. Classical was the sound of his car, and opera was the sound of Sunday mornings, while omelets sizzled on the stovetop. Dad had a soundtrack to his life, and so it was no surprise that music played an important role in the days before and after his death.

Ellie spoke about finding soul soothing solace at the beach last week, and I wholeheartedly agree that it was exactly what we all needed at that moment. Solace can be hard to find when the world has gone all topsy turvy, and the more intense our day to day obligations became during the brutal first days of raw grief after Dad died, it was hard to image that we'd ever feel peace or solace again. We found some solace in the music that became the soundtrack of those dark days.

Here's the understatement of the year: planning the funeral was hard. Dad was such a big, bright, beautiful guy. The duty of finding the right way to honor his death and celebrate his life with all the people who loved him was weighty. We had good guidance and support for the structure of the mass from our lovely Uncle Brain, with strategic planning sessions over dinner and wine:

From the start we all knew that there had to be music, lots of great music. Mom asked if my sister Jane and I would sing, and although Jane's initial reaction was not one that a girl would repeat in the presence of God or children, we were honored to oblige. So we practiced as much as we could in the days leading up to the funeral. We found that the songs were pretty good from the get go, but the thing we needed to practice was the impossible task of actually getting through either one without one or both of us being reduced to a quivering puddle of goo. Goo can't carry a tune. When the day came, we both stayed strong; and singing up there for my Dad, feeling his love and his strength and the bond with my sister in that dreamlike reality was one of the proudest moments of my life.

And then, of course, there was the classic rendition of Maime Reilly, it was a pretty good rendition, in spite of the glaring absence of a certain voice lending harmony:

The music continued into the quieter days that following Dad's services, from a newly accompanied version of "Heart and Soul" on the same piano that my Dad used to teach my boy to peck out his first tune two summers ago:

to notes on a piano much more grand:

It was therapeutic, all this music. It brought us to laughter and to tears, and allowed us some release when things started to get heavy. There was a lot of heavy, but we also had moments of light.

It doesn't get much more light than the evening when an inspired original composition was born toward the end of our stay in Connecticut. In fact, this auspicious event took place on the very same day that we found solace on the sands of Ocean Beach (east). Let's see, how can I describe this delicately? Suffice it to say that my girl had a significant, lingering moment that night, and she was moved to sing about it. The rest of us, being us and all, took up the tune and together we transformed it into a masterpiece. Uncle Bill was our troubadour, and when we were reunited with mom and Mary Beth and Mark Dowd the following evening, we performed it for them. And now, for you.


Chapel Hill Girl said...

OH my dear gracious. That was phenomenal. I see an album in there somewhere.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Oh. My. God. I'm laughing and crying and crying and laughing.

Beautifully written, Jacquie. Just perfect.

And my word are we good! Chapel Hill Girl may be on to something.....

Love you. And miss you.

MB said...

That's even more hysterical the second time listening! Sorry I messed up your perfectly centered shot, Jacq! Love you guys.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

"Suffice it to say that my girl had a significant, lingering moment that night, and she was moved to sing about it"

Too funny! That sentence gave nothing away, I did not know what to expect in the video.

Great writing, as per, Jacquie.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Furthermore, Jacquie, you and Jane both sang like angels up there. My heart was busting with pride and love. And I'm still not sure how you did it......

That loudmouth blowhard Holy Cross buffoon is totally hogging the front in the Oh Mamie Reilly photo....