I was standing at the counter
I was waiting for the change
When I heard that old familiar music start
It was like a lighted match
Had been tossed into my soul
It was like a dam had broken in my heart
After taking every detour
Getting lost and losing track
So that even if I wanted
I could not find my way back
After driving out the memory
Of the way things might have been
After I’d forgotten all about us
The song remembers when.
Those lyrics are from a Trisha Yearwood song entitled, not surprisingly, “The Song Remembers When”. And it has everything to do with why music is such a personal, powerful experience for me.
From the time I was young, I remember watching the adults in my life have visceral reactions to songs. I remember seeing tears in my mother’s eyes when the song “Because He Lives” was playing on the record spinning at the time. (At the time, I didn’t understand. Now that song evokes the same response in me.) I sat in the sanctuary of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, on Easter morning and watched tears start falling down the faces of nearly every member of the choir. I was probably 6 years old or so at the time. Years later, my parents would explain that it had been a rough path getting to the performance and it seemed like everything that could go wrong, was going wrong. All the frustration led to shortened tempers and some tense conversations. At the perfect moment in the cantata they were performing, the sun hit the rose window in the balcony and bathed the choir in colored light. The purpose of the day, the reason we were celebrating became the only thing that mattered and the responses of the choir members could be seen on their wet cheeks.
In my own life, there have been songs that have caused my eyes to fill with tears almost from the first note. There are songs that leave me invigorated and feeling like I could conquer the world. There are songs that hit me between the eyes with a truth I hadn’t considered before. And more times than I can count, I’ve heard lyrics that made me think, “Yes! That’s it! I haven’t known how to say it but those are exactly the words I’ve been looking for!”
Sometimes the songs I’m talking about are connected to matters of faith. Sometimes they are not. But one thing holds true – songs stick in my brain because I have an emotional connection to them. Or maybe I have a connection to the first time I really heard the song. Whatever the original circumstance, those songs are always there. I can go without hearing a certain meaningful song for years and when I hear it again, I’ll be able to sing every word without a mistake. More importantly, I’m instantly transported back to that moment in time when the song first imprinted itself on my heart.
Trisha was right. The song DOES remember when.