Grief is just love with no place to go. —Jamie Anderson, author
Not many know this about me, but I love to sing…and I sing all the time! I have a deep love for all types of music…popular songs from the radio, church hymns, TV theme songs, little ditties from musicals, you name it—I’ve even been known to make up my own songs! But here’s the thing, if we’re going to get real here, my love for singing is CONDITIONAL as I rarely sing in front of others. And while I wouldn’t necessarily categorize myself as shy (more of an introvert…and yes, there is a difference,) I do come from a musical family so I think I may have some skill (?), it’s just that my love for music and singing, in particular, is a pastime (a pleasure) just for me.
When the pandemic began and the Stay at Home order took effect, most of us found ourselves quickly adapting to our new circumstances and reorganizing our lives to accommodate working from home and for those of us with kids, the pros and cons of distance learning. Since I already work from home I had become very used to having the entire house to myself from 8am-3:30pm every day during the week. These hours, which I regretfully took for granted, allowed me to work, meet with clients, volunteer, and establish a schedule with plenty of introvert time…in other words, a place and a space to sing.
During the first few weeks of the shutdown, I barely noticed the lack of song in my life. With everyone homebound, daily life was consumed with trying to find a new rhythm, learning the ins and outs of Zoom meetings, and checking in on loved ones. No singing with the bedmaking or laundry. No singing while making a lunchtime sandwich. No songs at the coffee pot. Without kid pick-ups and drop-offs, travel to meetings, or even just outings for shopping, my drive-time concerts ceased, too. It’s not that I wasn’t plugged in or without access—I felt like I was constantly connected to my iPhone and my earbuds were practically glued to my ears at all times! The reality was that I just couldn’t find a time or a place to sing. In some ways, it was like our average size home transformed into an HGTV tiny house overnight. A tiny house with no place to sing.
I’m not sure how real singers manage, but for myself, I have to be in the mood to sing. Singing is not something that I can just turn on or off. Aside from being in a place to sing there are so many things to consider. Music genre, tempo, and playlist. It shouldn’t be this complicated and so if this sounds like it is, it’s just me. This is my way. Complicated. And it’s not that I stopped listening to music during these early days of the pandemic, it’s just that I couldn’t sing. Maybe, more like a feeling that I shouldn’t sing.
Easter came and went. My birthday came and went. Still no singing. Then at the beginning of May, both my parents tested positive for COVID-19. I’m going to state the obvious. You need air to sing, and suddenly there simply was no air. Up to this point, all the emotions that accompany a pandemic (stress, anxiety, weariness) were an undercurrent for me. I’m a realist, I understood the risks when all this began. I was not naive to think that our family would go untouched. Yet, I worked hard to balance faith over fear. With their diagnosis came a heaviness and a weight of worry and concern. As my father recovered, my mother’s condition worsened…eventually she was hospitalized. Like I said, you can’t sing without air.
My mother’s time in the hospital was filled with ups and downs, hope and trepidation, good days and bad days…and finally, the worst day.
Nothing prepares you for grief. The day following her death, I found myself for the first time in many weeks alone in the car. Settled in for a four-hour drive, I finally had a place to sing. My first inclination was to turn on the radio, but it wasn’t to be. Although I had a place to sing, there was just no space in my heart to sing. Instead, I drove in silence.
In the past two months, I have experienced a vast array of emotions. Some days have been a complete blur, as the time has both flown by and stood eerily still. As much as one can after loss, we have settled into the uncomfortable and are moving forward, it is the only option. Today, finding a place and a space to sing still remains challenging, but thanks to my daughter’s shared love of musicals (and the absurdly catchy “Hamilton”), I am again slowly finding my voice.
Ironically, on my way to pick Casey up from soccer practice last week, the song “Drinking Problem” came on the radio along with a flood of memories. My mother, who never had a beer in her life, loved this song! My sister and I discovered this interesting tidbit while driving with her to my grandmother’s 90th birthday party last fall. We were floored to learn that she knew every single word and wasn’t afraid to sing it out. Through tears, neither was I. In her memory, a place and a space to sing.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song, I give thanks to HIm. —Psalm 28:7
“A Life Interrupted” is an ongoing series of blog posts dealing with the loss of my mother to COVID-19.