Saturday, March 28, 2009

Music for a Sad Day

Over at Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, Rev. Dan Harper asks:

So as a minister, I have a question for you. When you are sad — I mean seriously sad, not just sad because you broke a nail, or because you didn’t hit the lottery (again) — when you are seriously sad, what music do you prefer to listen to?
Well, I’m not a minister yet. Just a Lizard Eating Seminarian.

Seriously sad, very seriously sad, as in “I’m sorry, but the cancer is back”? No music. Because there’s no winning. Sad songs make it worse. Happy songs become tragically sad. When LW was diagnosed the first time, on that first night, she was fussy (she was still a baby). I picked her up and lightly bounced her, singing in her ear – “Blue skies, shining on me, nothing but blue skies, do I …” I couldn’t continue. I choked. It was a long time before I could sing that song again.

When she was in the ICU after her first surgery, we played a continuous loop of Pachelbel’s Canon. Oof. Do you know how many happy events they play that at? We even have a hymn set to it. This past weekend, she was flower girl in a wedding. She walked down the aisle to it. But for the rest of my life … poof … we are back in the ICU, wires, tubes, and monitors.

I love music. Not in a generic way. I mean, I LOVE music.

But I haven’t figured out a way to listen to it during seriously sad times. Music renders me too vulnerable. And during those seriously sad times, the last thing I need is more vulnerability.

But once I get a bit of hope, just a smidgen, I can listen again. Or even sing. You know, there are lots of jokes told about UU hymns, but it was actually those that The Husband and I turned to, during some of those dark times. We would bend over her hospital bed and sing, “Come, come, whoever you are … ours is no caravan of despair …”

So many times, I would catch myself humming, “My life goes on, in endless song, above earth’s lamentation … it sounds an echo in my soul, how can I keep from singing.”

A minister friend came to visit me in the hospital, at a very low time. Afterwards, I remember looking out the window and hearing in my head, "...and I'll bring you hope, when hope is hard to find..."

During sadness, for listening, I usually turn to pure, unadulterated escapism. Lots of different types. Willie Nelson. If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time. Or hard/alternative rock. Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove. Or silly pop, like this past summer and Mamma Mia.

What do I listen to during the sad times? Everything. Nothing. All of the above.


ccr in MA said...

After my cousin died, I listened to a lot of loud music, trying to drown out my head. It only worked in the sense of getting me through the work day without lashing out (much); I was seriously angry.

One group I listened to a lot was REM, and especially Everybody Hurts. I liked the song before, it fit my mood, and it sort of helped.

But. For the last ten years, every time I hear that song, I'm right back to that pain, that anger. It's hard to run across that trigger just listening to the radio on an ordinary day.

Dan said...

You write: "We would bend over her hospital bed and sing, “Come, come, whoever you are … ours is no caravan of despair …” "

Oo, great choice! I'll have to remember that. Maybe you could tell this to Rev. Lynn Ungar, the UU minister who wrote that song....

Sara said...

Music can be such a strong memory trigger, but so can other things. My husband read from the Tao Te Ching to me while I was in the hospital miscarrying our first child, and now that will always be associated with the miscarriage in my mind. If I hear readings from it, it's like I'm right back there.