How to be remembered

You probably know a song that makes you think of someone sweet or important in your life. Unless you’re tone deaf. But, if you’re tone deaf, then you wouldn’t be reading a music blog.

Well, except my dad. He was probably tone deaf, and he still read my blog.

My dad had helped plant a tree beside my grandma’s house when he was in his teens, and in recent years, it had grown taller than the house itself and the leaves had gotten a little unruly.

The last time I went to my grandma’s house, the tree was gone. It was chopped into tiny logs to heat my cousin’s house. It’s an important task, and I got to stay in her basement without freezing, because of the mighty tree.

It doesn’t affect me as much as a piece of music that would remind me of my dad.

The other day, I wanted to learn a song that my dad used to like, but after listening to it on the piano, I sat there and simply couldn’t play piano at all.

In a study at the University of Newcastle in Australia, researchers used pop music to help people with brain injuries recall memories, and the brain scans saw entire neural networks light up from listening to this music.

The triggered memories are often vivid or emotional, which explains why listening to music affects me more than seeing my dad’s belongings. I went to that pier with my dad in the photo above.

I discovered that it’s hard to concentrate on his songs long enough to learn to play them, but I still love them a lot. I can play around 10 seconds of the intro.

Music triggers a lot of memories, and a great way for someone to remember you is when you share a meaningful piece of music with them. Then they’ll think of you, when they hear the music.

This is a long-winded way to say that I’m trying really hard.

I want to remember him and celebrate his memory and I don’t see why we can’t celebrate him when we visit his gravestone. We’re not supposed to wear red, which is a joyous colour in chinese culture. I’m grateful I got to know him.

I also think it’s a bit hard to visit the gravestone if I don’t think he’s underneath there anymore. We go there as a gesture, I think. At least, I do.

But, what do I know?

All I know is that he lives when I play piano. When I hear his music.

I almost expect him to peek his head inside my piano practice room again. Almost.


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  • Reply Susan January 6, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Beautiful thoughts, Grace. There is a section of my favorite Chopin piece that makes me think of a man who was like a father to me. He was a boss, a mentor and a lovely friend. I was with him the last days of his life when he was dying from cancer. When he died, I felt it and called his house. His wife and oldest son were by his side and were too emotional to speak to me. I understood, I just knew he was gone.

    I’m told that when I play that section of music, it is different and more expressive. That’s because he is with me in my heart whenever I play it. I love playing it and keeping him alive in my heart and music. I can play it without tears now, but rather with love and affection. There isn’t an empty place in my heart for him, but a special, warm place. I know you will find that peace too.

    • Reply Grace Lam January 7, 2019 at 5:34 pm

      Thank you, Susan. I’ve read your comment a few times and it’s heartwarming to know that you’re in a better place. For me, it’s peaceful sometimes. I’m getting there.

  • Reply Ike January 6, 2019 at 8:30 am

    I enjoyed reading your article Grace, it was at once poignant and sad, a reminder of losing loved ones, but also nostalgic and heartwarming as we remember the times we shared with them

    • Reply Grace Lam January 7, 2019 at 5:35 pm

      Thank you, Ike. There are good days, and less-good days.

  • Reply Cathy Therrien January 6, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Grace, my father, who passed away almost 3 years ago, was a wonderful pianist. He and I shared a special bond through our love of piano and in his last couple years (after my Mom had died) he and I spent many hours together listening to music. At age 92, and 98% blind he could still sit at his Clavinova and Play beautifully. Playing piano can be great therapy and helped me through the grieving process when I lost him. The first song I learned then was one of his favorites – The Nearness of You. For a long time I couldn’t get through the piece without crying, but now when I play it I feel him with me, almost like he’s giving me a hug. I cherish my memories of him, but like you, they are triggered more by music than his belongings.

    • Reply Grace Lam January 7, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      When my dad first passed away, I tried to use music to forget the world… to focus on the one thing that wasn’t terrifying and lonely. But now, sometimes, I use it to remember, to think about the past. I can’t make up my mind if I want to remember or forget, and sometimes I just play without thinking.

      Your father gave you a great gift of music, Cathy, and he would be proud that you’re still playing.

    What do you think?