An Irish Love Song

As I said in my last post, music is my second language. It’s always been powerful for me on so many levels. A simple melody on an acoustic guitar, the strain of a cello, the layers of notes that make a piano come to life… it touches my soul. Add some good lyrics and I’m a goner. Seriously – a the best song is one that makes you feel as if it is poetry set to music.

Music has been a part of my life in a billion ways. I learned how to hear harmony by singing with my mom around the house. I remember pacing the floor of our family room as a seven year-old singing along to the soundtracks of musicals like Phantom and Les Mis while as I turned the pages of the booklets that came with the CD cases. (I know… I’m old.) The worst punishment in the world was when my parents took away my boombox. I sang in the choir at church as soon as I was old enough, all though high school, and participated in every musical I had the opportunity to be in. I’m telling you – every chance I had to make music a part of my life, I was all over it. I love singing in front of people. I love listening to music on my own. I love the songs themselves, but what I fell in love with most of all is how music can make you feel. A new song can take you on a new journey and an old song is like a time machine that can take you back to significant moments in your life.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and I’m finding myself thinking of the traditional Irish blessing which holds more meaning this year than it ever has before. Before this December, I remembered it fondly as something I sang as a senior in high school. It was sentimental, sure. But to be honest, I’m more attached to the soundtrack of The Sound of Music (our senior musical) when it comes to remembering that year.

This year, the blessing holds new meaning for me because a few short months ago, my family stood at the front of a church saying goodbye to my dad as we sang the words. It was an extremely powerful experience for me, but that moment in front of everyone isn’t the moment that I hold most dear. When I hear it, I’m transported to the night before we saw my dad’s face for the last time. My siblings, my mom, and I gathered in the midst of our grief at the family piano at my parents’ house. Our sorrow was hitting us all pretty hard in the wake of the visitation that evening and we were all a mixed up mess of dress clothes and pajamas… But we all crowded around the piano and sang our hearts out. Tears were shed. Hands were held. Arms were around shoulders. We all came together in our love and in our sadness to honor the man we all loved so dearly with our voices. There were measures that shook slightly and I think all of us had to drop out a time or two to swallow the lumps in our throats, but it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

There in the home my parents created with their love for each other, that simple song swelled into such a touching outpouring of love that it’s hard to do it justice with words. It was the truest love song I’ve ever witnessed. With one song we came together in support of each other and in spite of our grief to give the sweetest man we had ever known the sweetest goodbye that we could. I will forever be grateful for that moment and it will stay close to my heart until it stops beating.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, I’m remembering the sound of our voices echoing up the stairs and passing my dad’s empty chair to reach him in heaven.

Daddy, these words are as true today as they were that night. Whenever I hear the Irish Blessing, it will always be for you. I love you so much.

“May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rain fall softly on your fields and until we meet again, may you keep safe in the gentle loving arms of God.”