I stepped back into the choir classroom yesterday for the first time in three weeks and was struck again by the sound of 52 voices crammed into a small space. Oh, it wasn’t transcendental harmonies and flawless diction that caught my attention. It was noise—the kind of noise that hums with reunion talk and spikes with staccato laughter and swells with an undercurrent of expectation and pulses with the indistinct beat of routine trying to reassert itself. When there is love, though, even noise can become music.
On this January 9th, I am reminded of the most boisterous noise-maker in my life, the man whose baritone bullhorn was a calling card and a badge of honor, whose laughter was as broad as his gift of service, whose every personality trait was larger than life, and whose existence ended exactly three years ago today. How I wish I had been able to witness my father’s final vocal “performance”—in the hospital room next to his, on Christmas eve, when a patient who knew she was dying of cancer asked him to join her in singing Christmas carols. It was just the two of them in her room: the combative man, pacified by his mortality, who was convinced he’d beat his leukemia, and the frail woman who knew she had but weeks left to live. I doubt that he turned down the volume on his voice that evening—he never did—and whether the rest of the oncology ward wanted to hear carols or not, I’m convinced they were given no choice in the matter. Of course, they might have heard more than just two voices singing…I’m pretty sure the angels were already warming up for Ner’s grand entrance into Glory. He died two weeks later, maybe even before the woman whose final carols also became his.
I am so grateful for the music of life—melodic or metaphorical. There is music in reconciliation and regeneration—Ner and I were proof of that. There is music in the love of friends and strangers, in the emails I’ve received in the past few days that have offered prayer and hope and friendship and advice. There is music in manic recording sessions, when two boys turn up on my doorstep with enough equipment to fill a Radio Shack and proceed to immortalize some of the world’s most unique (ie. wonderfully lame) lyrics. There is music in the squeals of dorm girls reuniting after three weeks apart. There is music in the clanking of my radiators after 24 hours without heat. There is music in the good-natured ribbing of 12 creative writers back in the artistic process.
There is music in figuring out the course to follow with my recent medical issue (see last week’s post). Thank you for expressing so much concern! This one is a complex composition that demands precision and insight—played by a blind musician following an ill-lit score, but guided by an infallible teacher. I’m still working on the details and will let you know what step I will take next just as soon as I finish sight-reading a few more measures. But there is music in the Peace that still transcends understanding and still covers me through the “what ifs” and “maybes.” There is music in a faith that not only soothes, but heals. That not only lifts, but carries. That not only guides, but strengthens.
I’ll close with a few more pictures of the recording session last Sunday. Those above are also from my “Jackson and Collin” collection. The two-hour marathon offered a great opportunity to experiment with Clark and get my mind off Mac. And the lyrics of the songs were…I’d like to say “redemptive,” but they were more like “perplexing.” Example: Unless you’ve made friends with a wildebeest, you’ll die alone. Sure…whatever.