Music has always spoken to me in a magical way. When I hear the right song at the right time it elevates my vibration, makes meaning out of my experiences, and helps untangle my emotions. Music defines moments, as well as entire periods of my life and there are certain songs that define entire relationships. I have songs with my dad, with both of my brothers, with my husband, my best friend, and of course, I have a song with Joe.
I remember the day I found Joe’s song. Or maybe it’s possible that it found me. I was pregnant and had been daydreaming for weeks about what song would be right for this baby when Chris and I watched a video of Coldplay on Carpool Karaoke (thank you, James Corden and Chris Martin). I heard a tiny bit of a song I had never heard before and it immediately stuck with me. I loved the melody of it and the way it made me feel. The lyrics hadn’t registered with me at all yet, I just knew it gave me a very necessary feeling. Once I heard it that day, I found it and began listening to it all the time. I allowed the notes and words of the song to become a part of my relationship with my baby while we were still in one body.
Somehow I could feel that it was the perfect song for us. Everything about it was right - the lyrics, the tempo, the melody, the intro, the end, the flow… all of it. I was transfixed by it and lifted to a calm, peaceful, warm, loving, maternal place when I heard it. I imagined myself holding my baby listening to this song when he was born and we were having our sacred bonding time. I imagined him growing up knowing it was his song and perhaps it would always have a special place in his own life. It would be a signal for Chris and me to remember the important things in life and never take each other for granted. It would define the moment we became a family.
When Joe was born, the song became one of the only familiar things in my life. Because it had already become part of how I knew him, it was intensely comforting for me to hear it while all of the chaotic rearranging and shifting and changing of our expectations was taking place.
Chris didn’t know about the song until Joe arrived and we were all together at Children’s. The song hadn’t crossed my mind until I experienced the bliss and correctness of meeting and being with our son. Chris and I were having an entirely new quality of conversation while we were safely tucked away inside Joe’s room. Cocooned within our new normal, the curtain pulled across the windows and door, I told him about the song I had chosen for Joe. Music is important and relevant to Chris in a similar way that it is to me, but we have our own styles. I am much pickier than he is when it comes to assigning a song to an experience, so he trusted my judgment in this case. I think he was reluctant to hear the song I chose, mostly because he knew it would force him to feel the weight of our situation when perhaps he wasn’t sure he was ready to.
The first time we listened to Joe’s song as a family was one of the most precious moments we shared in that hospital room. Chris and I sat on either side of Joe’s bed and situated our hands so that each of us was touching Joe with one hand and holding each other with our other hands. We floated through the song, just listening, letting the tears fall. We listened and acknowledged that this song was meant for a baby who would live a long, happy life. We listened and grieved the loss we were inevitably going to suffer. We let the weight of the decision we would soon have to make sink into our tissues. We let the song define this moment when we were happy to have this day together, neither looking toward the future nor longing for the past. We let the song carry all of our emotions through our bodies and into the atmosphere. The love we felt for our son was transformed from a burning flame into the brightest, warmest, most exhilarating light we had ever felt while we listened to that song. It said everything we needed it to say. It was everything we needed it to be.
The last time we listened to Joe’s song as a family was the day he passed on. Our entire families were gathered into Joe’s room as we waited for our minister to arrive so we could all pray together before beginning the transition off of his ventilator. He was in my arms and Chris was standing right behind my chair, protectively leaning over us. As the song played I sang every word to my sweet baby, knowing it would be the last time I could while he was alive. I desperately hoped he could hear my voice and that it comforted him, that somehow he knew the significance of the sounds he was hearing. I hoped he could feel the intense love emanating out of my body and into his.
As emotional as this memory is, I am so grateful that we did it. The scene I remember from that day was perfect, and the action of sharing his song with him one last time brings me so much joy and peace now.
Joe’s song has been incredibly healing for us since we left the hospital on that last day. Chris and I listen to it together sometimes to intentionally hold space for our mutual grief, our mutual joy, our mutual longing. We don’t really let it play by accident, we have to be in the right mental state before we invite it into our lives at any given moment. It’s not because it’s painful that we keep it safely off our playlists until we choose to hear it, but because we love and respect our experience too much to let ourselves become desensitized to his song. We like to keep our sacred things sacred.
With sacred intention in mind, the most sacred time of day for me has become the morning. On my best days, I wake up before sunrise and meditate. This practice has evolved since the summer when I first started sitting with myself everyday, and Joe’s song has become an important part of my routine. Before I begin breathing with intention and making space in my head to really listen to myself, I listen to Joe’s song. It is the fastest, most effective way I have found to tune and align my entire being to a higher vibration. I give myself the brief few moments while the song plays to cry and grieve for the baby I lost. For the motherhood I lost. For the memories I have instead of the ones I expected, the ones I thought I wanted. It always opens up whatever needs to be opened, and I trust it more than anything to bring me back into balance when I’ve become too fragmented. When the song’s over, I somehow know what I need most at that particular moment. I don’t go on crying and I don’t wallow because I don’t need to. I have no other thoughts intruding this mind space and I am completely focused on whatever’s needed that day. I’ve been able to maintain a relationship with Joseph this way, and I have been able to establish my own sense of motherhood this way. It is more essential than any other thing, any other task, any other action in my entire day. Meditation has saved me and it is this significant, I fully believe, because of Joe’s song.
I know this journey is lifelong. There will be more and less challenging times over the months and years to come. I’ve already felt the ebb and flow of emotions that comes with creating a life after losing a child. So many wonderful things are happening as we find Joe in our lives everyday. Sometimes I feel farther away than I’m comfortable with, and sometimes I’m intimately close to the truth of it all. Music is so helpful in making sure I’m feeling through all of this so that I can be my best self, the best wife for Chris, and the best mom for Little Joe. I am so grateful for the day I came across the song that has become a saving grace in my life, and I am confident that it will continue to provide exactly what I need as this journey unfolds.
Coldplay's "Us Against the World" (from Mylo Xyloto, 2011) will forever be Joe's song. We are so grateful to Chris Martin for his mind-blowingly powerful music. The effect it has on us is beyond the scope of words.