Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Touched By an iPod

So I said I wouldn't be writing for a while. But then something interesting happened, and I need to write it down so I don't forget.

If you're skeptical about life after death and all that, and if you're going to read this and think, "Oh, that's just a coincidence, Cranky," then just stop reading. Because maybe it is, but it gave me comfort, and that's all that matters, right?

Yesterday was a rough day for me. Monday was a bad day for Jason, and I spent a lot of time helping him, being at his side as his family made arrangements and dug through pictures and called extended family and friends. By 10am yesterday, I had made all the calls I needed to make, spoken to the bereavement committee at church, and even gone through my closet to pick out appropriate mourning clothes. Jason was gone running one last funeral home stop, Ainsley was at school, and I had the house to myself.

That's not really a good thing.

I started an on-and-off crying jag that lasted much of the afternoon. And then I got grouchy and started biting everyone's heads off, because that's how I roll when I get stressed out and overwhelmed.

"Why don't you get out of here for a little bit?" Jason said. "Go for a run or something to get it out of your system. You're making me crazy."

Don't judge him; he said it with love.

So I donned my running shoes, strapped on my iPod and set it to shuffle, and headed out on the longer of the two neighborhood courses I run. I wanted to wear out my body and mind.

The first song that popped up was "Love Rescue Me" by U2. I hadn't had that song pop up in a while. The lyrics in the last verse caught my attention:

I've conquered my past
The future is here at last
I stand at the entrance
To a new world I can see
The ruins to the right of me
Will soon have lost sight of me
Love rescue me

"Huh," I thought. "That's appropriate to Kathie's last hours."

The next song that popped up absolutely slayed me. I've never cried while running before, but I couldn't stop the tears. It was from the O, Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and when I hear it under the best of circumstances, I boo-hoo. It's called "I Am Weary (Let Me Rest)." Here is a link to the Cox family doing it. Have tissues at ready.

It was about then I decided Jason's mom was talking to me through my iPod.

I don't know exactly how many songs I have on my iPod. It's a Nano, and I know it's pretty close to its capacity. So I am thinking there are at least a couple hundred on there. Yes, it's possible that song could have popped up during my 50-minute run just by chance.

But wait! There's more!

The next song was a Melissa Etheridge song that I love called, "I Will Never Be the Same." It's about the indelible mark someone leaves on your soul when you love them but lose them. It's also a heartbreaker. The verse that got me was this one:

And you swore that you were bound for glory
And for wanting you had no shame
But I loved you
And then I lost you
And I will never be the same

See what I mean?

Because I believe that we can talk to people we've lost, and sometimes they hear us, I sent up a little message in my head.

"Kathie, if you're doing this, if you're trying to talk to me, send me a sign. Make the next song something that you know will make me think of you, that will show me this is you, that tells me how you feel."

When the next song started, I actually laughed through my tears. And I could swear I could her her laugh, too.

It was "Love Can Build a Bridge" by the Judds, and it was the version from their reunion concert from New Year's Eve 1999. I remember that New Year's Eve all too well; we had just lost Steve, Kathie's husband and Jason's stepfather, to a sudden heart attack. We were all together that New Year's Eve trying to comfort each other and her. When I bought the CD of the concert, I could only bear to listen to it a few times because I associate it with that dark week of our lives. But I love that song, and love that Mama Judd sings it with both of her daughters in that version. Like Mama Kath used to sometimes sing with her two daughters.

That song was followed by an Alison Krauss song I didn't even know I had on my iPod: "But You Know I Love You", a song written about a travelling musician leaving family behind.

And if I could find my way back to the time
When the problems of this life of mine didn't cross our minds
All the answers were found in children's nursery rhymes
I'd come running back to you...

After that it was almost as if I felt the sadness lift away, and if she was with me there for a little while, she went on to say goodbye to someone else. I had peace. There was a moment where I thought, "Stop being ridiculous. You just put it on shuffle while you were in your 'Sad Songs' playlist and forgot you did that." But then Beyonce's "Check On It" came on, that great ballad about working your booty to tease and catch the attention of members of the opposite sex, and I realized it was just on random shuffle and either chance or something beyond chance had decided to play with my fragile emotions for a little while.

Either way, I had a peaceful evening. I'm back at work, distracting myself with the small-by-comparison needs of our students and staff. And I've only cried once today, and that was because dear friend MelMart stopped in with her guitar to sing me a song that she would like to do at Kathie's funeral mass (I cried so hard, in fact, that I snorted, which is really quite embarrassing.) Things are better, and while I can't for sure say it's because I got a musical message from the beyond, I can at least say it's because of the healing power of music.

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