When I was younger I didn’t get how songs could move people. Sure, I understood hearing a song could touch you- but move you? Like our your seat and onto your feet hands in the air? That was beyond me.
Still, standing on my toes during my grandmother’s funeral service, I remember seeing people moving. Their faces were lifted up to the ceiling of the big, dark and antiquated church she used to attend. A few weeks earlier I told my mother that I hated visiting my grandmother at her church or as I called it then, the “praise cave.”
I preferred getting one on one time with my grandma, because then I could stare and trace over the pronounced cheekbones she had passed on to my daddy, then me. And also, there was there was that small detail about the dumplings, the ones she’d let me stuff into my windbreaker pockets after she had showed me how to knead the dough like a “good market woman” and place them in the pot without letting the bubble fly up and burn me.
My memories of her were of tangible moments like that, small things really. She and I never had complex talks. But from what I heard from the praise cave members, she was a rock, a source of strength and her wisdom and tough footed humor would be missed.
So they moved. Stomping feet, wailing, crying tears even though the minister had told them this was a celebration. It was some party, I thought to myself. All black suits and broaches and only my dry eyes outside in the foyer looking in. I stood there watching, unable to fully hear what was going on. I had to me the only granddaughter who thought taking a bathroom break in the middle of a funeral was ok. But my mother was busy tightly squeezing my father’s trembling hands which made for a quick getaway.
Opening the heavy door, I listened to the deep tremorous voice of the woman my grandmother had ironically said, “could sing life into a funeral.” She sang a song that has always stuck with me since my days as a child.
“Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around, turn me around.”
I don’t remember every detail of her farewell service, but I know there was a reason why that song has stuck with me through all these years. It speaks so true about loss and recovery, to the ways that we choose to keep going when everything seeks to send us back where we come from.
The where is different for all of us. It could be a bad place, it could be a destructive mental space but wherever it is, it’s somewhere we can feel tugging us back when hurt and fear set in. Whether it’s a bellowing alto or a light whisper, sometimes we all need a reminder that we belong to our futures not our past.
Today, refuse the lure of looking back and press forward to where you belong.