Everybody’s Got a Little Light

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.

Again, context.

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.”

Published in: on March 21, 2006 at 11:01 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Our kids are the brightest lights we’ll all ever see. Some people never discover this, never know that joy, but the lucky ones like you have had a taper lit. Keep your hand ’round its flame, there in your heart, and the tears that have been streaming down my face all day will be triumphant — _for_ you.

    Your wife has that taper, too, and you have another flame still at home in your daughter Maggie: keep your flames together to stay the brighter, and your family will be your strength.

    (On re-resding the above it reminds me too strongly of the old “Teach the world to sing” Coke ads — but it’s true, and your posts show you know it. Anyway, laugh with me, laugh at me, but laugh.)

    God bless, Guy I’d Never Heard Of ‘Til I Saw This Blog. Spring’s rolling in here in Rhode Island, the robins are coming back, and soon you’ll have a lawn to sprawl on. Think back on your Elena, yes, and then look on your wife & daughter and hold them close.

  2. Daniel, as I sit daily and read your beautiful words you bring me back to my dad….Spring…Easter is approaching and that was the last day I saw him….I remember exactly what he was wearing that day and I remember his bright smile…Spring….

    Today I cry as I read your words but smile and want to hug all of you so much. Your mom sent me the program of Elena and seeing her face, her smile made me gasp as if it were the first time I heard the news. But to see her eyes, her smile, the love that she had…..reminded me of Spring…

    I don’t what exactly I am writing, but please don’t stop with yours…this keeps me close. I love reading responses that come in daily, I am so amazed that so many people are still connected. Please continue.

  3. Like so many, I have been truly moved by your beautiful writing. We do not know each other and it was quite by accident (although, I’m not sure I really believe in accidents) that I came across your Blog. It seems that many things recently have helped me to see what a blessing parenting is and that I need to be a better mother to these special people God has entrusted to me. I wish I could say I would have no regrets looking back on how I have parented my 4 beautiful children, but thanks to many recent things that have crossed my path (including your writing) I know I can and will be better.

    You spoke of Spring officially being here, which reminded me of this poem that is written in a Meditation Chapel in Memory Grove here in Salt Lake City, UT. I include it here in hopes that you may find it somehow comforting and as touching as I do.


    And there shall come a day…in spring
    When death and winter
    Loose their chill, white hold
    Quite suddenly. A day of sunlit air
    When winging birds return,
    And earth her gentle bosoms bare
    So that new, thirsty life
    May nurture there.
    That breathless hour…
    So filled with warm, soft miracles
    That faith is born anew.
    On such a day…
    I shall return to you!

    You may not touch me…no,
    For you have thought of me as dead.
    But in the silence lift believing eyes
    Toward the dear infinity
    Of skies. And listen…
    With your very soul held still…
    For you will hear me on some little hill,
    Advancing with the coming of the year,
    Not far away…not dead…
    Not even gone.

    The day will suddenly be filled
    With immortality and song,
    And without stirring from your quiet place,
    Your love will welcome mine…
    Across the little space,
    And we will talk of every lovely thing…
    When I return…in spring!

    Francesca Falk Miller

    Thank you for helping me and so many others in ways you don’t even realize.


  4. I enjoy your articles and the layout of your site. I will visit your blog again.

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