One Song

January 19, 2012
By Samantha818 BRONZE, Salem, Oregon
Samantha818 BRONZE, Salem, Oregon
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"Be yourself; everyone else is taken."--Oscar Wilde

My mother and I used to be the same person.
She was fond of saying this, and I would smile indulgently, assuming it was something all mothers said. However, I did not fully grasp her meaning until my grandfather’s funeral.
The news of Grandpa Howard’s death was a shock to everyone. My grandmother had passed away just weeks earlier, so wounds that were not quite healed were ripped open again. Dan, Howard’s son and my stepfather, had flown to Hayden, Idaho to arrange the service. The plan was for my mother and me to drive up that weekend. Afterward, we would all drive home together. Since Dan left, our house had been quiet, neither my mom nor I knowing quite what to say. Part way into the 8-hour drive to Hayden, my mother put on a CD to ease the silence. I lost myself in my thoughts until one phrase caught my attention.
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I will gently rise and I’ll softly call,

Goodnight and joy be with you all
I turned to my mother and asked if she would like to sing this with me at Grandpa’s service. She shot me a stunned look, which I understood. My whole family is musical, therefore singing, playing an instrument are as natural as Little League is to other families. I have performed on the piano, the violin and the ukulele, but I am not known to get up and sing in front of people, especially a cappella. My mom, however, said nothing; she just nodded and started the song over.
Again, and again we sang it, trying to perfect harmonies and memorize words. I watched the clouds on the horizon turn from rosy to purple, and from purple to black with our headlights illuminating the lines on the road. Mom and I had some great moments, laughing over errors and hunting for notes. Then there were the low points, such as the 40-mile stretch from Fishtrap to Cheney, Washington spent bickering over wrong lyrics or timing. And yet, by the time we reached Hayden, we had it nailed.
The chapel for Grandpa Howard’s service was beautiful. With no need for a microphone, the testimonies from family and friends echoed down the pews and hung in the air, allowing the emotion to sink in. The final tribute would come from my mother and me; our song. We stood at the front of the church without accompaniment, and instinctively my hand grasped hers right before we opened our mouths for the first note.
The tiny chapel rang with our combined voices and when it ended, my heart was full. Later, back at the house my aunt remarked on what courage and poise I had shown, and how well my voice blended with my mother’s.
“Well,” I replied, catching Mom’s eye over my aunt’s shoulder, “we used to be the same person.”

The author's comments:
I wrote this piece to send to Yale for my application to attend the university. They wanted to know something about me that "was not reflected in my application." This story is dear to my heart, and means a lot to my family.

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This article has 5 comments.

on Feb. 1 2012 at 9:48 pm
I wrote a short free response journal in class once, but it was the only thing I wrote about it. It was just a 10- minute writing exercise, so it's pretty bad, though. My cousin was actually honored on a float at the Rose Bowl parade because she was an organ donor and saved seven lives. I miss her dearly. I was also so touched by the similarities between our stories. I have loves the Wailin' Jennys for years, and the only other person I know who likes them is my aunt! They're wonderful. Anyway, here is the journal. It's pretty rough because I never edited it, so it doesn't really show my writing style, (especially since it is from freshman year) but it does show some things about my cousin. My fingers grasped her cold and lifeless hand, searching for a steady pulse in her wrist, a small flutter of her finger, or a rosy complexion to brighten her skin—any hint that would convince me she was still alive. By now I didn’t even notice the tears that crept out the corners of my eyes or the soft whimper that somehow escaped my swollen throat. She can’t be dead. I squeezed my hopes into her hand, trying to somehow transfer life between our fingertips as I waited anxiously for her to claw her way back to life. My cousin Katie had never been one to notice things. Walking with her head in the clouds, she was completely oblivious to the world around her. While others her age obsessed over fashion and modern trends, she wore plaid with floral, pairing the unusual for an image of eccentricity and individuality. She didn’t notice when there were changes in style or trends, always slightly behind the time. She didn’t notice when no one listened to her rattle on about all her inner thoughts, but just knew that she had something to say. She didn’t notice when a car was coming full speed down the road, but instead strode confidently into the center of chaos. Her head was too high in the clouds for her to see the world directly in front of her. In a way it made sense. She had always lived among the angels. People say the dead look peaceful, but stuck in that state somewhere between life and death Katie just seemed lost. I had tried to avert my eyes, to keep my memories of her in the summer, barefoot, free, alive, but there were some things I couldn’t help but notice: her jaw hung slack and bruised around the edges, her leg twisted in the unnatural curve of a broken limb, the dried blood encrusted on her forehead. A wall of monitors behind her was the only indication that she was still hanging on, a constant reminder that her heart was still beating, even if only with the help of machines and life support. Only one monitor remained silent: her brain had shown no signs of activity since the accident. My throat was dry, but I knew there was something I had to do. Nodding to my sisters, I opened my lips to release the enchanting melody that would be my final goodbye to my cousin. As the opening notes creaked out, it took all the effort I had not to break down, and I held tighter to the hands of Katie and my twin sister, Haley. The difference between the life in Haley’s warm, sort hand in comparison with Katie’s cold and clammy skin was suddenly overbearing—the life and death on either side of me was too obvious, but though my voice shook slightly, I continued on. I looked into the eyes of my sisters and instantly we were in our own world, singing a final harmony for Katie. Our voices cracked, but still we sang. Tears streamed our faces, but still we sang. Our hands held together, a chain of life, we sang a song that suddenly seemed to describe our situation. “Oh, all the comrades that ever I’ve had are sorry for my going away, and all the sweethearts that ever I’ve had would wish me one more day to stay.” I felt my voice grow steady with my sisters around me. When my Aunt had first asked us to sing for Katie one last time, I would have done anything not to. But now that I was with my sisters, together by Katie’s bedside, it seemed like the only way to say goodbye to my cousin. “But since it falls onto my lot that I should rise and you should not, I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call goodnight and joy be with you all,” we finished on a clashing harmony whose discord reflected our sadness. My voice still shaking, I hugged my aunt and uncle, but I’d already said goodbye to Katie in a way no one else could.

on Feb. 1 2012 at 9:21 pm
Samantha818 BRONZE, Salem, Oregon
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"Be yourself; everyone else is taken."--Oscar Wilde

Madison, wow, I am so completely astonished that you knew the song!! No one I have mentioned it to has known the song or the Wailin' Jennys. I am so touched that this story meant so much to you, it really did mean a lot for me to write it. It's amazing how similar our experiences were! The story about your cousin, is so beautiful, especially about singing at her bedside while she was in a coma....if you ever write it down (or if you have already) please let me know. I would love to read it. Best of luck to you as well, fellow musical Wailin' Jennys fan!

on Feb. 1 2012 at 8:13 pm
I read this and was immediately in disbelief after having haphazardly clicked the link in a Google search. I know that song. The Parting Glass by The Wailin' Jennys. I also sang this song at my cousin's funeral last summer after I sang it while I held her hand at her bedside while she lay in a coma. She was hit by a car, and they took her off life support the next day. She was only 14. Your words touched me because I feel I have had the same experience. I have two sisters, a vary musical family (my mother was a singer for 22 years) and we are all very close. My two sisters and I sang the song in 3-part harmony at Katie's funeral, and the song has held special meaning for me ever since (and I have seen the Wailin' Jennys in concert twice). Your essay was written beautifully, but more than that it brought a connection and an understanding. Glad to know that someone else out there realizes the beauty in the song. Thanks for reminding me of my cousin, and good luck with college!

on Jan. 31 2012 at 5:05 pm
doinitwrite BRONZE, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania
4 articles 3 photos 4 comments
Sam this is so touching! It really embraces who you are. The ukulele is what definitely stood out to me, reminding me of New York. I'm so glad that you posted this on Teen Ink! I love the last line and how the car ride is described. Don't stop writing and good luck with Yale! :) -Brittany

on Jan. 30 2012 at 6:36 pm
WickedStarcatcher DIAMOND, Massapequa, New York
67 articles 1 photo 55 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I don't damsel well. Distress, I can do. Damseling? Not so much."
— James Patterson
"This is the very first page, not where the storyline ends, my thoughts will echo your name until I see you again..." ~Taylor Swift "Enchanted"

Hey Sam! This is really beautiful! I love the use of the quote and how it comes full circle in the end. I also love the mention of the Ukelele (reminded me of the song "New York City Girls" from Summer 2010). Your writing is so awesome and I'm so glad it was published! ~ Allie :)

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