One Song

January 19, 2012
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.”

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This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

doinitwrite said...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 5:05 pm
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
WickedStarcatcher said...
Jan. 30, 2012 at 6:36 pm
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 :)
MadisonEnos94 replied...
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 ... (more »)
Samantha818 replied...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 9:21 pm
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... (more »)
MadisonEnos94 replied...
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,... (more »)
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