Note: October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I’ll be back with more info about this campaign in the coming days.
I’ve been fighting a cold for the past few days so I’ve been struggling to think clearly and string together coherent sentences after taking cold meds. My head feels like it’s in a vice and my thoughts are just like little wisps of smoke sailing through the air. Hopefully, this post sounds relatively cohesive despite all of that.
Music has always been a huge part of my life as both a fan and as a performer. I started playing violin in fourth grade and a year later started playing oboe. In high school, I decided to just continue on with the more difficult oboe and I was in honors band and somehow managed to have a partial college scholarship as a music performance major, which I didn’t pursue for many stubborn reasons. I almost completely gave it up after my adopted mom passed away, so I picked it up again my senior year of undergrad. When I moved to Boston for grad school, I had to sadly sell my oboe one month for rent money. It wasn’t until several years later that I rented an instrument and started playing again casually to help as an alternative treatment for asthma. Today, I’m again without an instrument and occasionally find myself pining to play.
I’ve been finding myself listening a lot more to music lately, something that I’ve always loved to do, but I somehow got away from it. I think I may be listening to music more just because I’m in the car so much these days heading to therapist or support group appointments. I’ve found Pandora is a great way to find new artists as well as connect with songs I haven’t heard in ages. Because of that, I’ve found myself listening to some songs with a different perspective and finding new meanings as a parent. It’s weird listening to a song after a life-altering event, like the death of a child, and observing how your thoughts about those lyrics can morph into something new.
Songwriting seems like such a personal experience where you’re expressing your heart and soul in a more lyrical form of poetry set to notes and music. As I was composing this list, I noticed myself adding a lot of songs that are classified as “country”. I think in the current state of the music industry, the country genre is where most of the most heartfelt and truthful lyrics originate. They’re so often raw and full of emotion compared to some of the more standard pop fare these days which is full of fluff and vulgarity.
These are a couple of songs that I’ve recently found myself listening to but with an altered mindset:
10. “Who You’d Be Today” by Kenny Chesney
In grad school back in the mid 2000’s, me and one of my roomies were so totally smitten with Kenny Chesney. We totally thought his tractor was sexy and how most of his songs made a trip to the Caribbean sound like it was just one tropical fruit drink away. But, he definitely has recorded his fair share of meaningful songs.
“Who You’d Be Today” was written by Aimee Mayo and Bill Luther. It was released in 2005 and tells the story of someone reflecting back on a life that was taken too soon. I find myself so many times thinking about the “what ifs” in Emmett’s life. So many questions that will forever go unanswered. Would he have loved the Green Bay Packers (mommy’s team) or the New England Patriots (daddy’s team)? Would he enjoy music and movies as much as his mommy and daddy? What would he want to be when he grew up? We’ll never know those answers.
9. “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood
The first single from “American Idol” champ Carrie Underwood’s debut album in 2005, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” tells the story of a young woman handing over her life to God for guidance. The song was written by Brett James, Hillary Lindsey, and Gordie Sampson; and it reigned No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts for six weeks.
I’ve found myself struggling with my relationship with God since Emmett’s passing. I haven’t been close to Him in a long time. I was raised a Catholic by my Filipino father and we went to church weekly, and I was frequently an acolyte for Sunday Mass. However, I never felt comfortable being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church, something that caused my dad and I not to talk for quite a while my junior year of high school. Still, I always felt that I was just going through ritual motions without any true connection.
Today, I find myself asking “why” of God so often. Why my baby? Why our family? I feel like God is the only one who really knows the answers to any of those questions I ask.
8. “I Dreamed a Dream” originally from “Les Miserables” but this version is my favorite from “Glee” sung by Idina Menzel and Lea Michele
Sung by the character Fantine in the first act of the musical, “I Dreamed a Dream” reflects upon a life and the things that have gone wrong. I’ve mentioned before the blame and the guilt that I personally put on myself. I know deep-down that Emmett’s death is not something that I had control over but I still blame myself for the decisions that were made. I feel like I’m personally responsible for the outcome and I’m the one who tore the dream apart.
7. “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott and the Scott Family
The recently released “Thy Will” single by Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and the Scott Family and been blowing up the country charts. I posted about it briefly in the Sept. Roundup. The song is her recollection of her own miscarriage in fall 2015. Like Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” Scott’s “Thy Will” is a letter to God and handing over control of life to a higher spiritual being.
6. “Music of My Heart” by *N’Sync and Gloria Estefan
I will be the first one in line if *N’Sync ever makes a come-back tour. (Seriously guys, get it together.) “Music of My Heart” is probably one of their lesser known hits that was done with Gloria Estefan for the soundtrack to the movie of the same name back in 1999. At the time it was released, I was a freshmen in college. I loved the song just because it was by my favorite boy band at the time.
But, as this came on Pandora recently, I hadn’t heard it in probably 10 years, maybe more than that. The Estefan/Diane Warren-penned lyrics spoke to me. Emmett is the music in my heart. “You’ll never know / The gift you’ve given me / I’ll carry it with me” My son has a song still to be sung and I’m the one who can sing it for him.
5. “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts
The first of two Rascal Flatt’s songs on this list, “My Wish” was released in 2006 on the band’s “Me and My Gang Album,” one of my favorites of their’s. At our wedding in 2008, Brett chose this to be the song he danced to with this godmother for the groom/mother dance as his mother passed away when he was young.
The song was penned for one of the songwriters’ daughters. It’s the perfect aspiration from a parent to a child. It’s something I wish I could sing to Emmett. “I hope you always forgive and you never regret / And you help somebody every chance you get” My hope and wish is that Emmett would’ve been the most loving, helpful child. I think that’s one of the things about being a mom to an angel baby, your baby is so perfect. They never had a chance to talk back or make you angry. In my heart, he’s that perfect child who always will do right for others.
4. “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw
Another one of those songs that I haven’t heard in ages but when it was first released I knew it was a beautiful song. Tim McGraw recorded and released the song back in 2004. Many people associate it with his father, Major League pitcher Tug McGraw, who died earlier in that same year from complications from a brain tumor. The lyrics speak to living for the moment because you never know how much time you’re going to have.
This whole experience with Emmett has made me more grateful for each day and each moment that I’m given. Life is not a guaranteed thing. You never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes I just want to slow down and enjoy the breeze upon my back. Gaze at the stars above me. Listen to rain falling on the deck. Little moments mean so much to me these days.
3. “For Good” from “Wicked, sung by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth
My favorite favorite favorite musical. I love “Wicked.” For the longest time, “Defying Gravity” was my favorite song from the production. I even have a t-shirt from the touring company that came to Milwaukee back in 2009 with the saying on it. But, as I listened more and more to the soundtrack over the years, I found myself falling more and more in love with the farewell duet between Elphaba and Galinda.
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Emmett came into our lives for a reason even though it was for a very short period of time. He taught us so much about ourselves, about the fragility of life, about friendships and connections. While it’s easy to focus on the bad and that my baby is gone, there are good things that have come out of this experience. There is a light at the end of the tunnel on days that seem so very dark.
2. “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts
The second Rascal Flatt’s song on this list. This has always been a special song to Brett and I. It was our first dance song at our wedding. It’s been recorded by several artists dating back to 1994 for the Flatts version is the most notable.
The experience with Emmett has put a strain on our marriage. There are times where I honestly just don’t know if we can make it last. I think part of that comes from my lack of spiritual guidance and just low self-esteem. I know we’re very much in love with one another. We’ve been together for almost 12 years now, and married for nearly 9. But, there’s still that piece of me that doesn’t know if we’ll come through this unscathed.
I worry that my husband thinks less of me because I couldn’t save our baby. I’m crying as I write this because I’m just so afraid that he will leave me because I couldn’t be the woman and the mother that I needed to be. I feel that I always need to be the rock that I need to be the one who is constantly strong and holding us together. But there are times where I just feel so small and so unworthy of his love. Like, why would he want to stay with me?
But, then I listen to a song like this, think about the things that brought us together. The tough times that we’ve already been through. We’ve persevered through so much already as a couple and now as parents. If I falter and miss a step, he’s there to pick me up. If he stumbles, I’m there to take his hand. The road is broken but it’s the love that we have for each other that keeps us on the path together.
1. “Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)” by Billy Joel
The last song on the list is the oldest one and also by my favorite artist of all-time. My brother John took me to see Billy Joel in concert in 2003 for my college graduation present. It is the best concert I have ever been to (with Bruce Springsteen in a close second).
This song that was written for his daughter is just so beautiful and simple. I’ve always loved it for its honesty. How do you as a parent answer a child’s question about death? A parent hopes they can always be there for their child but at some point they do move on and must leave that child alone.
I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away
But, you never think as a parent that you’re going to have to be the one to bury and mourn your child. There’s just this certain order to things that we have come to expect out of life cycles and miscarriage and infant loss throws all of that out of balance.
A part of me wonders what would the song be in reverse? What would the child sing as a lullaby to a parent who is left behind? Do they look down upon us? Do they hope we continue to live our lives with them forever in our memory?
All of these songs make me wonder what would Emmett sing? What would be his lasting verse?