Monday, April 08, 2013

Tender Mercies: Sacred Music Edition

My uncle Jay called me the day of the South Dakota funeral and asked me to play the flute for the musical number that all the cousins would be involved in for the Orem funeral. They wanted two of Madison's flute playing friends in the area to join me, so I got to work figuring out how to get three flute parts to sound good with the piano accompaniment that I had to work with all without overpowering a crowd of sweet little voices. The children, mine included, sang "If the Savior Stood Beside Me". Annika and Jenna (Madison's sisters) sang a solo on the last verse. It was so sweet. The whole thing. I cried. The words are so fitting of this situation and were a wonderful tribute to the way she lived and died. Whenever Jack hears it he says, "That's Madison's song!" I think that is how we will all think of it from now on.

Anyway, it was a little uncomfortable calling up strangers and taking charge of something so important and I really wanted to do it well. I hope it turned out the way they wanted.

The other request made by Lara for the funeral was to have some French horns accompany the last song, God Be With You Till We Meet Again. They didn't know anyone in the area who plays, but I do, or at least I knew of a couple of people who do. I asked Mr. Lemen, my high school band director if he could give me a few names. He went above and beyond that request. He is wonderful and I am so grateful for him. He put together a wonderful group of seven players, and even brought stands to the church on the morning of the funeral. He had a crazy busy day, but went out of his way to get it ready and to find me to give me a big hug that morning. It meant so much to me, and the horns were incredible.

I thanked him for his help and he told me that he remembered the support he had received when his father had died, and he wanted to repay that help since he somewhat knew the pain our family was going through. Such a good man. I am blessed with amazing friends. I am so happy that I had a connection that came through so amazingly well to make the day really special. The feeling in the room when all those horns started playing was exciting and touching. The most amazing thing about it all to me was that none of those people knew Madison, or me. They were strangers who had been touched by her story and all of them said that they felt honored to be a part of the day in this special way.

The other musical moment of this funeral that still touches my heart came from a youth choir. Ryan Eggett is something of a musical genius, and he directs an elite choir for the UVU institute called the Latter Day Celebration Choir. He is also in the bishopric of the ward Madison's family was in when they lived here in Utah. He had them come in and perform "I Will Rise", and it was one of the best musical numbers I have ever been privileged to hear in my whole life. That is not an exaggeration.

I have been involved in music since I was 11, and I am pretty good. I have been part of some amazing ensembles, and I have been privileged to attend concerts and recitals of even more amazing groups, and I can only think of a couple of numbers that have ever touched me as deeply as this one. The choir is amazing, and I don't want to take anything away from them, but surely there were angels there with them. Mere mortals could not have made such an impact on so many people. The song was uplifting and comforting and full of the pure doctrines that we all needed to be reminded of.

This is a recording someone took on their phone of the performance. I am grateful someone thought to do that. She missed the first of the song, but she said the minute she heard them singing she knew she had to find a way to save it.

This is a professional recording that they did with Alex Boye.

I listen to one of the recordings on a daily basis, and sometimes it doesn't even have anything to do with this tragedy. The song has become something of an anthem for me. It renews in me a dedication to work harder and to have more hope. It instills in me an enthusiasm for service and righteousness. It is a prayer to God to help me be better than I am now and a declaration that I will do what he asks of me so that I can have the peace and assurety that the words of the song portray. That performance has changed my life.

The day was really hard, and yet there were some really beautiful moments as well. I imagine that the ache I felt as I watched Jay and Lara bid farewell to their sweet daughter before they closed the casket for the last time will haunt me forever, especially as a mother. I know that Annika's solemn voice when I hugged her to say how much I had missed her and she answered, "I miss my sister." will linger for a while. There were a lot of efforts made to bring comfort and love to the family, and they were all so gratefully received. The cranes I know were especially touching to Lara, and rightly so. They are so lovely. For me, the music on that day served as my balm in Gilead.

There are a lot of things that I don't understand in this world, and a lot of those uncertainties have re-arisen from this experience. However, this terrible tragedy has also helped to cement my surety of other important truths. The music of that day, the music that I know Madison would have thoroughly enjoyed, was a sweet reminder those things.

Whenever we hear any of those three songs, I will be reminded of Madison which means I will be reminded of something tender and painful. That being said, I will also be reminded of purity, service, love, and the Eternal nature of life and temple sealings.

I am grateful for sacred music.

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