Sing a new song.
Growing up, my house was always full of music. I took piano and violin lessons and played in a music ensemble in church. Even today it's a pretty safe bet that at any given moment my dad is either playing one of his many instruments, "jamming" with his band mates, or listening to music. Pop, rook, classical, bluegrass, hymns, and rap--you name it, it has probably been blared throughout the house at some point in my life.
It was no surprise that there was plenty of music at my grandfather's funeral, and not just the familiar hymns he loved. After the funeral itself, as his whole surviving family--four children, 13 grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren, and all their spouses--gathered at the cemetery, my dad started to sing "Angel Band," a bluegrass song by the Stanley Brothers: "My latest sun is sinking fast/My race is nearly run/My strongest trials now are past/My triumph has begun."
There was something about the song, sung a cappella in a cemetery, that brought us all out of our individual grief and transformed us back into a family, a community. One by one, as my dad continued to sing, we joined in the chorus, until the song became both a prayer and a reminder that we were all together, still a family.
Like Rhonda Miska in her essay this month ("Grieving with Brahms," pages 19-21), it was mourning that showed me how music can guide us through the most difficult times. Miska writes that after her grandmother's death music gave her "the consolation of beauty, of one soul extending to another soul and saying, 'I've been there too.'" Music is an experience both personal and communal; each individual is called to a different lyric, a different genre, a different piece, and yet the overall effect is to remind us that we are all one people. One family in Christ. One church.
In this month's In Person ("A new kind of music," pages 45-46), music executive Binta Brown says, "Music touches every person, every space." Growing up, music was the air I breathed, how I processed my emotions, how I communicated with my dad, how I participated in my Catholic faith. Even today, every time "Angel Band" comes up on Pandora, I am reminded of standing in that cemetery on top of that hill in the cold, mourning my grandfather and trying not to cry. But I am also reminded of the crowd of people who surrounded me that day. Perhaps this is the meaning of all good art: it reminds us that we are not alone.