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On my momâ€™s birthday last week, I left the house to go to the cemetery first thing. Being there, walking in the always slightly-moist, lush grass in front of her monument can provide a moment of peace on special days. But getting there feels brutally
My parents both nurtured not just a love of music but a necessityÂ for itâ€”recognitionÂ that everything is better with a soundtrack and that music is one of our greatest art forms. I associate my mom with music that is soul-full. Her taste was eclectic, but her everyday soundtrack was full of songs that have something to say, music with beautiful harmonies and powerful lyrics.
There were many songs she loved. My sister listens to â€śChild of Mineâ€ť by Carole King. I get teary eyed at her favorite Eva Cassidy songs, and get out my anger at missing her with a good Adele tune. My husband Eric always associates â€śHey Ya!â€ť with her (doesnâ€™t fit the same bill, but it does evoke some feeling!). When she was sick, she had a loop of music she liked to play that I still listen to sometimesâ€”gorgeousÂ songs sung by her Cantor Jodi Sufrin, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Corrine Bailey Ray, Alison Kraus and a few great others.
Among other genres, she always had a soft spot for gospel music and spirituals. I can think of two reasons why. One, it is so strongly in the wheelhouse of soul-full. After all, it is the original soul music. It is hard to listen to a great piece of gospel music and not feel it. Second, as much as my mom was fulfilled by and committed to her Judaism, she carried an appreciation for the surety that Christianity offers about heaven and the end of life. So much Christian spiritual and gospel music is about the promise of a good and peaceful heaven. While Judaism is open to the possibility of that heaven, it never feels like a universally held sure thing. In both, she and I share(d) a feeling that even if a song is about a God a little different from yours, it can still evoke your own connection to the universe and whatever God is yours.
So these days when I head to the cemetery I leave my house and listen to “Child of Mine” or maybe Alison Krausâ€™ “The Lucky One.” If Iâ€™m feeling emotionally fortified, Iâ€™ll put on Bob Dylanâ€™s “Forever Young,” which turns me into the driver beside you that is ugly crying in her car. But as I approach the cemetery, Iâ€™ll be playing Joan Baezâ€™s â€śAmazing Grace,â€ť one of momâ€™s favorites around the time she passed away. It helps me feel closer to her and it probably keeps me crying. On the way out of the cemetery, I imagine her sending me out with a song like Sweet Honey in the Rockâ€™s â€śGo in Grace.â€ť These songsâ€™ reminders about the strength of the human spirit and the presence of something greater than all of us helps me keep her near and approach the rest of the day, moving into what ever else is on the rest of the soundtrack.