Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In Loving Memory

This past week, I sang one of the most difficult performances of my life to this point.  I sang "The Lord's Prayer" at my grandfather's funeral.

When my grandmother first asked me, the same day that I'd found out about his passing, I told her that I probably wouldn't be able to do it.  For me, the moment I get emotional, I lose all ability to sing.  Just thinking about it made my throat close up.  I knew that if I had anything emotional happening in my brain and body while I was trying to sing, I wasn't going to make it through the song.

As I thought about it, I realized that I really wanted to sing.  It seemed like the absolute right thing to do.  I needed to sing for my grandfather and my grandmother.  My grandparents have always been huge supporters of mine (even though Grandma always complains, "When are you going to wear a pretty dress in an opera?") and it seemed fitting to honor my grandfather in this way.  He told me many times, and again right before he died, that he was so proud of me and everything that I've accomplished.  I knew that singing was the greatest gift that I could give him.  So I set out to find a way to sing for his funeral service.

I devised a plan and did something completely unorthodox.  It went against everything that I've ever believed or been taught about performing.  I went into the performance cold - unrehearsed in every way.  I never met with the organist at the church and I didn't look at the music once.  I've, surprisingly, never sung "The Lord's Prayer" before, so I knew I'd be sight-reading.  Sure, I've heard it a few times, but I've never sung it.  I figured that the attention I would need to spend on the notes and the words would leave no room for anything else.  I'd sing it as straight and emotionless as possible and hope for the best.

So, I printed out the music the night before and carried it in my jacket pocket through the last viewing, the procession, and the service until it was my time to sing.  I ascended into the church balcony and looked out over the altar which I know so well.  I've attended every Christmas Eve of my life at that church.  My grandfather was baptized there and my parents were married there.  Now, I was to sing for my grandfather's funeral there.  It felt so right that I couldn't doubt myself.

I followed through on my plan and focused on getting every note, every rhythm, and every vowel right.  My voice was normal and strong throughout.  After it was over, I felt like I'd just run a marathon, but it felt good.  I was so happy and honored that I had the opportunity and ability to give such a gift to my grandparents and everyone else in the service.

And music still helps me, every day, to battle through the grief.  I've found solace in the arms of family and friends, in the words of poets, and in the music of great composers.  At the end of the day, I've found beauty to be the most comforting thing of all -- whether it's a memorial mounted by the Fire Department for my grandfather or Billy Collins going off about the beach.

A friend shared this with me and I will share it with you:

"Unable are the loved to die.  For love is immortality." -Emily Dickinson

My Opa will be missed, but I know that his strength and love will always live on in my heart.  The things he gave me are priceless and I will always treasure them.  
With my grandparents at my college graduation in 2011