Sing Like a Sparrow

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A,” a half-robot, half-female voice intoned before launching into a list of artists.  “Avett Brothers . . . . ”

My husband Jim had installed a sound system in his truck, which I did not drive until he was desperately sick and needed to get to an emergency room in a blizzard.

I had minimally mastered the art of driving his truck by the time the emergency room admissions became fast and furious, but would never master the intricacies of his music system.

(When I sold the truck after he died no one was able to disconnect his elaborately wired speakers. The last thing I found before handing over the keys he’d carried was a compartment that held his hospital employee’s ID and early generation device with his musical catalogue.  As I wandered away in a fog, the dealer ran after me and said he’d found one more thing; he handed me Jim’s stethoscope, which he’d retrieved from some well-hidden place within a vehicle that–unlike my mom van–was immaculately maintained.)

On those terrible winter nights when I ventured home to check on our children and beagles, I would climb high up into Jim’s truck–invariably, nearly the only vehicle in the dark outdoor lot–turn the key, and immediately hear Jim’s musical index begin–“A . . . . Avett Brothers . . . .”

Inside the storm-sealed truck, I was as alone as I can imagine being.  I had my own eerie interior soundtrack: sleet or snow splattering against glass and steel, joined by my punctuated sniffling, were counterpoints to the windshield wipers’ rhythmic squeaks. From Jim’s seat I stared into the hazy swoops of winter nights’ blue-black as the icy crystals fanned and streaked away like the grooves on a vinyl LP.

I unwittingly produced my own grief mix-tape.

Before leaving the parking lot I would try to figure out the magical combination of button presses to skip ahead to the album upon which I was stuck: Mumford & Sons’ “Sigh No More“:

Serve God love me and men
This is not the end
Live unbruised we are friends
And I’m sorry
I’m sorry 

Sigh no more, no more
One foot in sea, one on shore. . . .

There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
At my heart you see,
The beauty of love
as it was made to be

To up the unintentional irony meter from the title of this CD, I was fixated on replaying the same three songs as I drove, weeping, back and forth to the hospital.  One was “Timshel”:

Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance

The second was “Awake My Soul”:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life. . . .
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker

And the third, repeated as those storms raged, was in a sense aspirational: “After the Storm”:

Well I guess I’ll just go home,
Oh God knows where
Because death is just so full and man so small
Well I’m scared of what’s behind and what’s before

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair

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The Avett Brothers’ “Live and Die” of course was not in Jim’s repertoire, because it was released after he died.

I wonder if it’s a universal experience for a widowed spouse to imagine how life would have gone on had the loss been reversed?  I know for certain how one part of it would have played out.

Jim would still have that truck, would no doubt have offloaded and tossed out boxes of junk from my mom van and unloaded the vehicle itself.  In his truck he would have installed yet more byzantine musical technology. His stethoscope would remain at the ready in that hidden compartment near his seat. His camera bag would be behind his seat, where he could grab it and get off the road and capture some incredible sight.

He’d leave the hospital and climb into his truck–not a big step up for him–and he’d turn the key and would hear: “A . . . . Avett Brothers . . . .”  He’d look into the blue-black night and he’d tap his right hand lightly against the underside of the steering wheel and he’d listen:

All it’ll take is just one moment and
You can say goodbye to how we had it planned

Fear like a habit, run like a rabbit out and away
Through the screen door to the unknown

. . . I want to find you and more
Where do you reside when you hide? How can I find you?

. . . . Left like a pharaoh, sing like a sparrow anyway.
Even if there is no land or love in sight

We bloom like roses, leave like Moses out and away.
Through the bitter crowd to the daylight. . . .

You and I, we’re the same
Live and die, we’re the same
You rejoice, I complain
but you and I, we’re the same
Live and die, we’re the same
You and I, we’re the same
Hear my voice, know my name,
you and I, you and I

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About Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like forensic evidentiary issues, jury instructions, and expert scientific witness preparation. She also is an adjunct professor at a law school on the banks of the Charles and loves that dirty water, as she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2020 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with Wordpress protocol and the numerous other wee buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.
This entry was posted in Love and Loss and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Sing Like a Sparrow

  1. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Thanks for sharing this personal memory. Whether it is from a mix-tape or handwriting in a checkbook, our love for those who have departed can surface and give us warmth for another day.

  2. gae polisner says:

    Not surprising to you that Live and Die is one of my absolutely favorite songs? I thought not. Beautiful post, Stephanie. ❤

  3. Stephanie says:

    Definitely not at this point the least bit surprising. Thank you, Gae . . . . but shouldn’t you be doing revisions? 🙂

  4. soletusknow says:

    Beautiful post. Thanks so much for sharing. Will be listening to some of the songs from Jim’s mix today 🙂

  5. . says:

    So sad, yet beautiful. Thank you for sharing these thoughts about Jim and you. I feel that we know so much more about you and Jim through your writing and photography — two such extraordinary people. Love

  6. scillagrace says:

    I am not familiar with any of these songs, but I am familiar with the bonds of shared music and how they keep me in touch with my Jim, too.

  7. scillagrace says:

    I hit ‘post comment’ before I added that your writing here is simply riveting. I feel like I climbed into that truck with you.

  8. christinadrh says:

    Love M&S, nice post, from the heart. All my life I have felt when people we loved died they were somehow closer, accessible any time in a different consciousness, not ‘gone.’ Also, like when you first fall in love, it’s hard to focus on anything negative about them. It’s all good.

  9. Leya says:

    A truly beautiful post. Memories and music – connecting. I’m not familiar with an of the music, but I know about what music can do. You are a very good writer, because we are swept along…Thank you.

  10. Marie Keates says:

    Music is so evocative isn’t it? I think we all have songs that remind us of special people and, when those people are gone, the songs have the power to bring them to mind very strongly. If I was gone I doubt my husband would ever be able to hear Hotel California without thinking of me and smiling. For me Truly Madly Deeply would take me back to Mount Vesuvius and Paris with him.

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