Updated: Jan 5
A dear friend lay in ICU, hovering between life and death, her insides ravaged by pancreatic cancer. I called to see how she was faring, my heart heavy with news of her latest prognosis.
“I’m doing well.” she said, “I’m just laying here listening to the angels sing.”
Many years have passed, yet in the ear of my mind, her words still echo in her distinct voice.
Soft as a kitten.
Radiant as a sunset.
Her tone infused with the summer of her.
The warmth of her.
Even as she lay dying in the cold of winter.
Her demeanor was calm and tranquil, like an ocean breeze. She paused briefly, seeking the right word to describe the otherworldly melodies that caressed her ears. She settled on “beautiful”.
“The music is like nothing I’ve heard before. It’s beautiful, so beautiful.”
Our conversations in the days prior had been riddled with angst. But that day---tension and anxiety dissipated...wafting away like thin wisps of smoke.
Her name was Taryn.
She was a professional colleague.
A 35 year old wife and mother of 5 daughters under the ages of 10.
In my final conversation with her, she acknowledged her pain. But as her disease riddled frame received comfort from the acoustic balm of an angelic choir that ONLY she could hear---she was serene.
Solemn, as she looked intently into the mirror of reality and saw a soon to be widowed husband and five motherless daughters reflected back to her.
By some providential means that I may never comprehend this side of glory, angel songs bridged the gap between two worlds for her---a soothing supernatural serenade.
Song has amazing abilities! It stimulates memory and evokes emotion.
Haven’t we all heard a song from years past and been transported, to another time and place?
I embarked on just such a mental time travel excursion while attending a Diana Ross concert. As Diana launched into a medley of her hits with the Supremes, and transitioned into the song “Reflections”-- my mind left the building, though my body remained in my seat.
Within the space of a few bars of song, a half century of time elapsed and rather than a 53 year old in a performance venue, I was a 3 year old in a carpeted hallway, dancing with my mother as she belted out the lyrics---every word memorized, her rich alto a fitting accompaniment to Diana’s soprano.
I sometimes think it’s not so much the song that triggers our emotions, as it is the people and memories that surface.
My mom navigated life shouldering the weight of unreleased burdens and unresolved trauma that diminished her capacity for joy. The notable exception was when she sang. As she opened her mouth in song, she not only enthralled the ears of her listeners--- her rich vocals, nuzzled her own ears, triggering the release of dopamine, producing a mood enhancing effect. I don’t recall ever seeing her unhappy when she was immersed in music and song.
Perhaps more music, more song, is what the world needs right now as we transition out of one of the most turbulent years in recent history.
Perhaps it can help ease us from the upheaval of 2020, to the hope of greater stability in 2021.
For four years…. Anger has been abundant. Racial strife has been rampant. Civil chaos has been common. Toxic words that insult, incite, and injure have been ever present, polluting the atmosphere with discordant vibrations of vitriol.
Perhaps music can free our souls from the prison of minds fixated on the latest outrage. PERHAPS we’re better served by LESS Twitter and MORE ITunes.
Perhaps by filling our days with songs that UPLIFT rather than news stories that ENRAGE, we can improve our mood and mitigate depression.
Perhaps a mega dose of melody is just what the doctor ordered in this new year.
Perhaps music and song are the infusions of hope needed to heal some of what ails us in this hour of history.