[b]The Melodious Eternal[/b]
Music is a gravestone.
It has the power to evoke deep-seated memories along with a myriad of emotions.
When my cousin Steven died about five and a half years ago, it seemed as if my world took a nosedive. I remember delving in and out of the hospital, watching someone I loved dearly, wither away amidst the sufferings of hundreds of other children. While leaving the hospital, I paid close attention to the details in the waiting area—the Christmas trees with pulsing lights strewn across the branches and the obnoxious blow up figure of Santa Claus. But what plagues my mind till this day is the infernal sound of a Christmas carol that resonated from the hospital speakers. The juxtaposition of all of these symbols of a tradition that is meant to be a joyous time and the notion of an impending death rendered me lost within my own emotional void.
Several months later, I gathered with the rest of my family to pay my last respects to Steven. I walked on the grass toward his burial site. There was no gravestone, just a hole—a frigid, numb hole that triggered so many raw feelings.
A few months after the funeral, I returned to New York where my cousin was buried. I had spent a whole two weeks there visiting my relatives, dreading the time when I had to confront my greatest challenge—dealing with what life threw my way. On the day that I had to return home, I decided to visit Steven. The florist across the street from the graveyard had little note cards to stick in a bouquet, on which I wrote almost a paragraph to try and catch my cousin up to what I had been doing and how much I missed him. As I drove through the graveyard, I couldn’t help but revel in the haunting, yet beautiful image of thousands of memorials to loved ones amid well-manicured, green lawns. The blatant contradiction of something morbid with something so ravishing was no longer a burden to me—it was therapeutic.
As I approached the grave, I was confronted by an overwhelming rush of feelings, from malice to serenity. I finally confronted a tangible symbol of my cousin’s memory. It was comforting to see the flickering candle beneath his headstone. Clearly someone had been there to see him recently. After sitting there for what seemed like hours, I got in my car and drove off.
While I drove away, I popped in a CD that I had purchased while in New York. As I was driving over a bridge to leave the city, I had this moment. The sun peeked out through the clouds to reflect an almost surreal glow onto the river. Every time I hear this particular song, it brings me back to the graveyard. It brings me back to that very moment where the sun shone brilliantly across the normally dismal waters of the city. It brings me back to the hospital to confront my resentment and appreciate the adversity that life has brought upon me.
Every time I hear that one song, it makes me remember Steven’s life, the candlelit stone that represents his memory, and how beauty can be found within the most unlikely things.
Music is a candlelit gravestone.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.