Observations from my weekly wanderings, usually in Northern Virginia (NOVA).
This is really from a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t quite have the heart or the time to write about it before.
My wife and I were to travel to Michigan for a wedding. A few days before our departure I got one of those late night calls that fill you with uneasiness, merely by the lateness of the hour. Fortunately, those calls are seldom as bad as the feeling of dread they evoke. However, in this case, my trepidation was well founded.
A cousin had taken his own life.
Not just any cousin. We were best friends, only a year apart – we grew up together.
I know there are many who will read this and then express their sympathy. I will of course be grateful for the kindness; but please rest assured – I am OK.
I just want to write about memories.
A couple days after receiving the terrible news, I was taking a break from grief and doing what I do, reading with movie soundtracks playing in the background.
I was reading Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. It is very much about memories – involuntary memories, such as those evoked by sight or smell that can take us back to nearly forgotten THINGS from our PAST.
I’ve heard the sense of smell is one of the strongest involuntary memory stimuli, and I’ve certainly experienced it. Many times I’ve chanced upon some smell that instantly takes me back to: my childhood home, my Grandma’s attic, the fields and streams of my youth, or other nearly forgotten places.
But a friend recently mentioned that she found music to be powerfully evocative of things past. I’m certain she’s right.
As I was reading my book about involuntary memory, my consciousness was taking a respite from sadness, even while my subconscious wrestled with learning to grieve. The online soundtrack station has a diverse repertoire; slowly a sound filled the room with melancholy and my eyes with tears.
Theme from To Kill a Mockingbird composed and conducted by Elmer Bernstein
I was familiar with this soundtrack as it is from a favorite movie and favorite book, but I had NEVER heard it on this station before, and was certainly not expecting it.
When it started, soft and low, little more than piano and flute, I immediately dropped my book to listen; when the orchestra joins in at 1:38 it brought all my emotions to the fore.
I can’t say this music truly reminds me of my childhood, but it does evoke memories of Harper Lee’s powerful story of innocence, courage, love, and loyalty – and those thoughts indeed bring back simple, happy memories with my cousin.
To Kill a Mockingbird is also about ignorance, injustice, and learning not to despair when you don’t win every battle.
My cousin didn’t learn that I guess.
I’ll never listen to the Mockingbird theme again without thinking of my cousin. I’m confident with time, the sad and tragic memories will fade, displaced by the happy and innocent.
Oh and…the wedding was a joy; the bride, my niece, was beautiful.