Oct 17, 2015

Death Rites and Remembrances: My Grandfather's Music

The delightful Magaly Guerrero hosts a blog party each October under the "Witches in Fiction" banner. Each year she chooses a new haunting theme, and this year the idea surrounds celebrating or marking the memory of loved ones that no longer walk with us in the flesh.

I have a small story to share, if you want to pull up a chair and sit a while. It won't take long, but there is a campfire here, and I'll pass you a cup of hot chocolate if it pleases you. The neighbour brought fresh apples from his trees this week, and I made tarts. Help yourself.



My grandfather (top right) stands with his siblings and parents outside the castle that his father built for his mother upon coming to Canada. The "castle" was a grand house sporting a roof with faux turrets. More impressive than the house, were the grounds my great-grandmother kept. Secret garden rooms and hidden sculptures were found all over her yard, and I spent long days getting lost out there among the plants and wildlife, and protesting every call from my mother to return inside.


My grandfather played the spoons. He played the piano too, and when his fingers could no longer stretch out and press down on the keys, he took up the guitar because he was able to hold the rudimentary tool he created to strum the strings.  He played the harmonica at times. Not well, but no seemed to mind.

He loved to sing. He was part of a gentleman's choir for years, and when he was 90 he began performing solo in retirement and nursing homes to entertain "the old folks." His eyes and memory started to fade a bit (but only slightly) and so I spent some time tracking down a list of old songs he gave me, and I created a large-print song book for him to carry around so he might have a bit of backup if his mind lost a word or two of a favourite tune.

Few of his children inherited the musical gene, and even fewer still of his grandchildren. Many of us have wished that we carried even a small portion of his talent in us.

I don't know that I have a memory of my grandfather that doesn't include hearing him sing, or recite a funny poem or lyrics, or seeing him take up any item within his reach and try to make music appear from it.

I saw my grandfather, my father's father, the day before he died. He was 99, and only a few short months away from his 100th birthday. We had planned a big bash for him, as well as a family reunion, and he was very excited. But his body was failing. He was tired. My cousin and I sat with him that day, and he told us stories and sang for us, and I knew by his breath and manner that he was moving away from us. I called the family that night, aunts and cousins, and told them to come.

I didn't return the next day. I had my quiet moment with him, and told him the things I wanted to say, and thanked him, and kissed him, and knew we wouldn't meet again while I was in this body. I can't remember what I did the next day, but I received messages from family telling me how glad they were to have rushed to his side. He was delighted that day - his tiny apartment was brimming with people who had come to sit by his side and tell him stories and sing with him. My cousin told me that he kept asking "is everyone here for me?"

The man that wandered through his life with music on his lips and in his hands, sang to his family on the day he died. As people went home he grew quiet, and at last, with my aunt by his side, he drifted on the music he had given us, into the next world.


When it comes to making music, there is almost no talent in me. I tried out choir and band in high school, but my voice isn't much, and I grew frustrated with reading sheet music. The few instruments I tried I gave up on because my short fingers wouldn't cooperate with stretching out to hit a chord or a key. My hands are better suited as spades for the earth, than for traveling nimbly down a piano. Recently though, I picked up a pair of spoons. I was putting away the dishes, and I found myself wedging them between my fingers and trying to rattle them the way my grandfather did. It turns out that my chubby fingers are good for something - they held those spoons perfectly.

Perhaps there is a bit of his music in me after all.

22 comments:

Aidan Wachter said...

Beautiful. Thank you.

greekwitch said...

For most of the post I felt a soft smile on my face, then tears and in the end goosebumps. Truly amazing.

newworldwitchery.com said...

A gorgeous remembrance of what sounds like a truly remarkable man. And told with such beauty and grace. Thank you for sharing this, Jen. There is music in your words, as well as your spoons.

mrsduncanmahogany said...

What a perfectly beautiful story! Fond memories indeed!

Laura said...

That is so lovely.
blessings
~*~

William Jones said...

Tears. Thank you for this gift.

Betty from My Irish Cottage Home said...

A beautiful memory. I had a tear in my eye while reading it.

Rommy said...

Music runs in my family too - my dad, my grandfather. I will always think of strong tenors and piano music with both of them. It's wonderful you found a way to connect with your grandfather through the spoons. It's such a playful bit of music making, even with the bittersweet associations.

Sharon Rawson said...

This was one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read! Than you so much for sharing such a precious memory!

Sarah said...

What beautiful memories you have shared about your grandfather. Thank you. I'm sure you'll be playing the spoons quickly. Brightest blessings and peace

Linda Wildenstein said...

Oh my, this is the kind of story I hope my grands will tell of me. I disagree that you did not inherit any of your grandfather's abilities. Obviously he made people happy with his singing and you too have a gift to lift spirits in others. I'm very sure he is proud of who you are, as proud as you are that he was such a talented and sharing role model.
Lovely story and just perfect for this Death Rites and Rememberances.
Blessings dear one, xoxo Oma Linda

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Great story! How wonderful that your gift of perception allowed other family members to have their last farewells with your grandfather too.

thevampyrwithin said...

Beautiful, thank you for sharing. It brought back memories of my own grandfather who sang and played his guitar at every opportunity.

Gina said...

You brought tears to my eyes..filled with happy memories of a father now passed who used to try desperately to play the guitar or harmonica(which I sill have), but had no natural skill lol..Blessings on you all XXX

Magaly Guerrero said...

I never met your grandfather, but as I read the last few lines of your tale, I'm sure I saw him smile with pride... and there was spoon-music in my heart.

What a stunning memory you've shared with us, Jen. Thank you. ♥

Debra Nehring said...

What a heart-full tribute to your grandfather. As the veils thins, I'm sure you feel him smiling as you play music with spoons and with words.
Blessings, Jen.

Little Gothic Horrors said...

Your grandfather sounds wonderful! And loved! I'm sure you have your own, unique magic that is cherished by your loved ones, just as you remember your grandfather for his music.

Victoria said...

What a beautiful memory, and how lucky you were to have a grandfather like him. I enjoyed reading it, thank you for sharing it.

Blessings,

Victoria

Sunshineshelle said...

Ahh what a well loved man & it seems his musical talent was also within you just waiting to be tapped into once you found the right instrument to give it a voice. Such a loving tribute to a fabulous Grandfather xox

Katy Magee said...

Earlier today I had cause to tell someone, "I'm just not much of a crier."

You have moved me to tears.

HappyCrone said...

You have a gift, like your Grandfather, the gift of the bard, the story teller, the historian. Wonderful, Jen!

L J Dogsmom said...

What a sweet memory.