The Power of Music: A Personal Experience with Grief and Loss
I wrote this several years ago after the passing of one of my students. It was a tender experience, and one that was deepened through the power of music–just not in the way I had anticipated.
I have a heavy heart tonight.
A couple days ago I heard that one of my former students whom I had loved dearly had renal failure and came home from the hospital so she could die at home. It was sudden and unexpected for everyone, and she was only expected to make it a week or two.
I made arrangements to go visit her this morning, and was halfway there when I realized I had forgotten my guitar at home. Of course I had planned to bring it (along with a xylophone, which she loved to play, and an ipad to record any music we might play together). As soon as I realized I had forgotten it I turned around and drove home to get it. The trip took an extra 20 minutes but I figured it would be worth it so I could share music with her one last time.
I pulled up and knocked on the door, guitar in tow, and her mother answered with a grief-stricken look on her face. I told her I was there to visit her daughter, and she informed me that she was actively dying and they had just started turning away all visitors.
Shocked, I headed back to my car. Her dad came out as I was packing up and thanked me for coming and said they had just sent away some of the other folks from the school just a few minutes earlier, and were getting all of her younger siblings out of the house as well.
I felt a little better in talking to him briefly, but as I got in my car and pulled away, it hit me that if I hadn’t gone back to get my guitar I might have been there in enough time to see her before they sent everyone away.
I felt so much regret, and as funny as it sounds, I was angry at my guitar. If I hadn’t felt such a need to play in order to work through these types of emotions, I wouldn’t have needed to turn around to get it, and I could have had a moment to say my goodbyes.
My emotions overcame me and I pulled over and just sobbed. I realized at that point how dear this student had been to me. She was one with whom I connected more than most, and I have many fond memories of working with her. I got a message later on today that she died several hours after I left.
When I got a moment after dinner tonight I got my guitar back out of my car and took it downstairs to play. I immediately overcame my “anger” for the instrument as I used it to process and ponder this student’s passing. I knew exactly what I needed to play. I wrote a song several years ago called “You Touch My Heart” specifically for the students at Jordan Valley School.
As I played, I had a beautiful experience using this song to process through this difficult time. Of course this song means a lot to me because I wrote it based on my love for the students I had worked with. I’ve also found that it means a lot to parents as they look at it in relation to their children with special needs.
And now I’ve found that it also holds a great deal of meaning when coping with the passing of a loved one.
I am so grateful for the power of music to help work through emotions, process difficult experiences, and learn new things about our experiences here on this earth.
I am grateful to have known this student and to have shared some of the most tender pieces of my life with her, and I wish comfort to those who are mourning her passing. I do find great joy in the thought that she is no longer limited by her mortal body, and she can now be free of the physical and mental challenges she faced.
Even so, I feel that our souls connected through music and the reason I love her so deeply is because I had a picture of who she really is because of the music we shared.
And I can’t wait to meet her again.
You Touch My Heart
You Touch My Heart
When I began
I never could have dreamed of all that this would mean
It wasn’t in my plan
I thought I knew what I was going to do
I thought I knew
But something led me here
It took me by surprise, I can’t say when or why
And through the years
I’ve felt stirrings in my soul as you have helped me grow
And I know you cannot say my name,
But I know you love me just the same
I can’t hear your voice but I can hear what you are saying
You find a way to touch my heart
And say we’re not that far apart
You give me strength to climb, and tell me I can make it
You touch my heart
I’ve found a friend
As true as friends can be, the bond between you and me
And it will never end
And I can’t wait to see the day when you are free
When you are free
Someday we’ll stand face to face
And I will hold you in a warm embrace
Maybe then you’ll see how much you mean to me