You know that soundtrack that runs under your life? Could be folk, rock, rap, classical or jazz. It could change. Different tunes fit different situations – John Williams can’t write them all.
Some times it’s Peter, Paul, and Mary singing “Inch by inch, row by row” sometimes it’s Eric Clapton’s guitar, but every spring it’s that descending bass line in Parliament’s “Flashlight”. Singing “Now, I lay me down to sleep. Ooh, I just can’t find a beat.”
Yesterday we went to a funeral and then had a meeting over at the cemetery. I went to bed with the day spinning over and over again. At the funeral the pianist played and sang “Ave Maria”. I’ve heard my sister sing it twice – once at Kim and my wedding and once at Elena’s funeral.
Context is everything.
It’s not just the singer or the song. It’s the setting.
I was thinking of that yesterday at Patty’s funeral. It was the first funeral Kim and I had been to since Elena’s. Just three weeks between the two. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Paul and Sue. At a wedding all of the focus is on the people being celebrated and yet at a funeral all of my attention was drawn to the family members. I don’t know if that’s the way it is. I have a hard time remembering funerals before Elena’s.
Paul spoke eloquently about his dead sister and tied it back to thoughts of his father as well. I watched admiring his ability to choose words that painted a picture of the dead as well as her relationship to those that were gathered at the funeral. Somewhere after his talk and Sue’s reading I drifted off a bit only to be shaken back into the present with the playing and singing of “Amazing Grace”.
It could be a youth spent in the company of folk singers, but I’ve always associated that song with the story of composer and his belated and slow realizations and conversion of a slave trader to a minister and abolitionist. But here in a church it was the story of a life considered.
I was about Elena’s age when my parents took me back stage to talk to Pete Seeger and to request that he sing “The Bullfrog Song”. A song I never thought to sing to Elena.
Surprisingly, it was not hard to keep our thoughts on Paul and his loss. This wasn’t about us. Paul, like Maggie, had just lost a sister. Kim and I spent some time downstairs with the friends and family and had some lunch.
Kim and I drove with the radio off. Our internal soundtracks enough to fill our ears.
A few hours later we were back at Lake View Cemetery to pay the balance on the graves we had purchased. Derrick has been an amazing man to work with. More so when you realize that his nineteen year old son was recently killed in a car accident. His son’s birthday approaches. I can’t imagine working with so many others who are grieving given his personal situation.
We drove over to Elena’s grave. Just behind it was the fresher dirt with the just fading flowers for the eleven year old girl and her grandparents who died in a car crash. So many people with so many losses.
Kim, her mom, Maggie, and I walked around the graves near Elena’s surrounded by context.
But yesterday was also the first day of Spring. It is finally officially Spring. Even at a funeral. Even in a cemetery. Even in Ohio.
The cemetery gave us a brochure telling us when different flowers and trees tend to bloom. We’ll be back in April for a picnic near Daffodil Hill.
When I worked in Urban Contemporary radio at WDMT, Dean Rufus used to bring out Parliament’s “Flashlight” to celebrate Spring. Not on the first day of Spring according to the calendar – but on that first really nice day when it smells like Spring and you want to blow off work and enjoy the day. Dean would play it on the air over and over. Somehow he couldn’t repeat it enough. I’ve continued the tradition for the twenty years since I’ve left the station.
The bass line just sets me free in a way I can’t explain. I’ve got the funk cranked up way too loud. Teams stream down my cheeks as I see Elena dancing with all her heart. I join her.
“Flash light – spot light”.
Crying and yet so happy. Dancing with my baby.
“Everybody’s got a little light under the sun.”