Meet Me at the Twilight Star
This song was inspired by a powerful experience that happened after our father's passing. Shortly after his death, myself and other family members rented a house on a beach cliff in Cayucos, California for the Christmas holiday in 2005. It was on a stretch of beach where we have spent many family vacations. This particular rental house sat very near the rock where our dad liked to fish. Our arrival was in the late afternoon and we were greeted with a perfectly gorgeous ocean view and clear skies. As dusk approached we were out on the porch facing the ocean when an extremely bright star appeared. It was a most compelling first star of the evening. We all sensed immediately that it was our dad's way of connecting with us in a very strong and beautiful way. My sister, Karen, took several photographs of this star that evening. During the winter of the following year she sent me a card with the photo of this star on it. It instantly reminded me of that memorable time together. Soon after, the words and music flowed in easily for this song. It was as though dad was writing it for me and letting me know that we could meet at the twilight star every night. The lyrics to this song are written from his perspective, out there in the great beyond... inviting us to come and talk at twilight time. Karen's photograph of our dad's "twilight star" from that Christmas visit is the cover art of this CD, "Meet Me At The Twilight Star".
Over the many years of assisting families with memorial music, I realized there was a great need for a special song to accompany the release of ashes into the ocean or "burial at sea". There is much poetry written for burials at sea but there isn't any specific music. Due to the fact that the ashes are scattered in such vast waters, there is no exact "grave marker" such as a headstone in a cemetery. I realized that some families who chose cremation really missed having that physical marker and some were reluctant to spread their love one's ashes. I wondered if the right song could create a "marker in sound" for an experience as powerfully expansive as an ocean burial.
To prepare myself for composing this song, I spent more time at the beach to connect with an emotional understanding of the ocean as a place of burial. I imagined the release from the perspective of whether the ashes were scattered by boat or plane. I wanted a song that could work equally well when played from that point of release as well as for those who remained on the shore. I wanted to write a song that would be moving for those who were present on the day of release and also as a souvenir in song for those who could not attend. A short time into composing "Sailor's Farewell" I knew that it needed to be written as poetic prose with a haunting Celtic music arrangement. The arranger of this song, Andre Mayeux, understood all I wanted to achieve and was able to create exactly what I was feeling with the opening Irish flute.
I had the opportunity to tryout this song soon after it was arranged with a wonderful family that I was working with in Hospice. "Ray" was the loving husband to Yvonne and an incredible father to his three daughters. His ashes were to be released by airplane beyond the local pier on a brilliant and sunny January day. Yvonne, her daughters and I stood at the end of the pier and waited for the plane to arrive. When the plane made its first flyby, it dipped its wing toward us so we knew it was "Ray's" plane. I started the CD player and "Sailor's Farewell" began with the opening instrumental flute beautifully filling the space. As the plane made its second flyby it released Ray's ashes into the ocean. On the third flyby it dropped rose petals near where we were standing on the pier. There are no words to describe the power of that moment. To witness Ray's ashes as they spread out into the ocean with this song as the backdrop was ethereal. It was like we were creating a scene in a movie.
And so I present to you, "Sailor's Farewell".
Alternate version of this song are available as Digital Downloads Only at CDBaby.com. "Mother's Farewell", "Father's Farewell", "Grandma's Farewell", "Grandpa's Farewell", "Brother's Farewell" and "Sister's Farewell" can be downloaded for burial at sea ceremonies of other members of your family.
It Will Be Your Smile
This song was written in early 1993 for a family who wanted to celebrate their very special mother. Her adult children described her in this way. "Mom" had no formal education but understood how life was really lived... by the golden rules. She was a loving mother, loyal friend and was always generous with her time and talents. They all agreed that her most captivating qualities were her beautiful smile and contagious laugh. She had been on Hospice service for an extended period of time but was now in the last month of her life. "Mom" had already chosen the readings, poems and one piece of favorite music for her own memorial service. This family already had a head start in preparing for this event, however, they wanted one more special song. When they called me to help them find the right music, I went over to their home to meet "mom" and the family. They were right... she was all they said and more. What a beautiful spirit and so loved by her children. She was not able to speak anymore but could still give you that most beautiful smile and wonderful laugh. This family wanted to capture those particular qualities about her in her memorial service. We had searched through all the usual songs for memorials and were disappointed that nothing truly characterized their mother. After spending a short time with them, I realized that the story for her song was sitting right there in front of me. "It will be your smile that I remember you by... It will be your laughter, my friend." I completed this song very soon after that visit. It was played as the underscore for her photo tribute and was the perfect soundtrack to the many pictures of "mom" smiling and laughing.
The versatility of this song to be used for many types of goodbyes was evident as I sang it at my graduation later that year after finishing my Master's Degree.
I Will Paint You the Sky
So often in the wake of a death there are visible signs, miraculous moments or connections that occur in a synchronized way. These experiences often happen in nature which take the appearance of cloud formations or a rainbow or the sun streaming through after a rain shower. Sometimes it's a hawk or an eagle, or maybe a dolphin or whale or other land animal that appears at an unexpectedly perfect moment. Many times a beautiful sky might appear at sunrise or sunset that seems so very personal to those who are remembering someone in their life. The concept for this song was really given to me during a memorial service when I listened to a story of a grieving family member. She described the most beautiful sunrise she had ever seen happening soon after the death of her husband. She was convinced that this sunrise was a message from her husband, through nature, to let her know he loved her... and that he had already reached heaven and was "safely home". In my many years of being with families in their death experiences and memorials rituals, I am convinced that these "divinely timed moments" cannot be by chance. All transitions create this "point of power" or "point of crossing" and these visible signs or happenings occur to validate this and help us stay connected to ourselves, our loved ones and to our time remaining on earth.
Reflections of My Father
This song comes from a real experience that happened to me within the past year. As I get older I notice that I look more and more like my father. Not only do I physically look like him but I also have many of his personal characteristics. I vividly remember one day as I looked in the mirror, I was just stunned at the sight of myself. I really look so much like my father... especially through my eyes. That moment was just sadly beautiful. This phenomenon would repeat at different times and I wondered if anyone else was having this experience. I wondered if I could write about such an intimate moment that happens so spontaneously. Could I capture all that in a song? "Reflections of My Father" emerged very naturally as I just recreated the moment over and over in my imagination. I left the lyrics in a very open fashion so that others who have experienced this can see themselves in this song. It is not necessary to share the same physical features with someone in order to make a powerful connection when standing at the mirror.
This song can be very helpful for expressing the feelings of those who are really missing their father.
Alternate versions of this song are available as Digital Downloads Only at CDBaby.com. "Reflections", "Reflections of My Mother", "Reflections of My Grandma", "Reflections of My Grandpa", "Reflections of My Brother" and "Reflections of My Sister" can be downloaded for those of you who find this reflection experience happening with someone other than your father.
My Mother's Hands
This song was originally written for a Mother's Day service in 2002 at an interdenominational church. For this particular occasion I needed a song that could embrace all faith traditions and the varying kinds of relationships to mothers. When I started to write it I knew that I wanted to find a quality or symbol that was common to all mothers; one that would elicit the personal story of each listener. When I reflected on my own mother, my focus went immediately to her hands. I thought about all the millions of tasks that she has performed with them everyday as a mother of seven children and as a nurse. My mother actually hates the way her hands look, however, as a daughter I see them in a completely different light. My mother's hands are the ones that picked me up, changed my diapers and washed my hair as a young child. From my perspective I have always seen her hands as the story of her days. And from that creative and emotional point I could write this song about her hands and thus allow each listener to do the same in their imagination. This song has since been used for many memorials and I have sung it often for Mother's Day services. Many people are waiting for this to be recorded so they can finally hear it again. For my mother's 80th birthday, I created a version of this song that includes a personal narrative which speaks to the many ways I remember her hands throughout my upbringing.
Alternate version of this song are available as Digital Downloads Only at CDBaby.com: "My Father's Hand", "My Grandma's Hands", "My Grandpa's Hands", "My Brother's Hands" and "My Sister's Hands".
Brother of Mine
“Brother of Mine” was actually my very first song-writing attempt. I traveled to Washington D.C. in November 1991 to be with my friend Laura. This would be the first time she would see her brother’s name etched into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. I chronicled this day like a documentary. I took dozens of photos of Laura’s pilgrimage from start to finish in the several hours we spent there on that cold, fall day. I took photos of the many personal letters, pictures and other items that were left at The Wall by others. It was a very emotional and important day for Laura and an incredible experience for me to be part of her journey. While there we met up with an organization called “Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial” (which no longer exists). They were there to help everyone who was visiting the Wall for the first time and also provided support to all family members. As I read their literature on the plane ride home, I saw that they had a call for original songs to create a recording. It was to be named “Songs of The Wall”. It was the first time I ever considered songwriting because I was very moved by that day with Laura. I had brought so much of the experience back with me emotionally and through photography, so I decided to give it a try. When I returned home, I created a space in my voice studio to work on it. I spread out all the photos I had taken of that day. I started to write about what happened in sequence as well as the emotional story of Laura and her brother. The song, “Brother of Mine” came into form within two weeks. I submitted my home version, on cassette, which was recorded with just piano and voice tracks to the “Friends” organization. Ten artists were chosen for “Songs of the Wall” which was to commemorate the Tenth Anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. “Brother of Mine” was selected and recorded for that project. Denny Martin did masterful work as the musician and arranger in capturing the mood and feeling of this song. After the entire “Songs of the Wall” recording was finished I was honored to perform my song, along with the other artists, near the Lincoln Memorial and Veterans Wall on Veterans Day weekend in November 1992. The “Songs of the Wall” cassette recording was sold at the Wall for many years. It came with a booklet that provided all the lyrics, song stories and artists information. For years I received many letters from sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, children, Veterans and friends of Vietnam Veterans who bought that recording. They wanted to let me know that “Brother of Mine” helped them in their grief. This song has gone so beyond the story of Laura and her brother, Bruce. It has been part of the healing process for more people than I will ever know. I am so proud of this song and how it has brought healing to wounds which many thought could never heal.
Your Voice Calling
When I finished writing this song it completed something very important for me. Within this collection of songs I truly wanted to have one song that acknowledged the state of "authentic grief". The desire for writing a song for this purpose has been incubating within me for many years but how and where to begin had not yet revealed itself. The inspirational moment for this song happened during a memorial service for a family that I was assisting through my work at Buena Vista Hospice Care. One of the family members was speaking about the positive impact of his relationship to his father-in-law. The place where this song began was within his words and specifically this phrase, "I know I'm not the only one who loves you... but I'm the only one who loves you in this way". The words he spoke are almost exact to this song phrasing. The emotion behind these words was so moving and poetic to me. I truly did not know this song would develop with the refrain of "Your Voice Calling". The verses were very easy to write as I just called upon my own intense grief experiences. The refrain of "Your Voice Calling" did actually come into my mind as a "voice calling". It serves as a point of connection and hope within the intense isolation and loneliness that can happen within authentic grief reactions.
My River of Forever
The shadow's found the eastern ridge
The valley darkens once again
The red tailed hawk returns to nest
The day give in, and yes, that's when...
I walk down to the peaceful running water
Dusk is a very beautiful time of day for me. The daylight is fading and I often find myself thinking about the people in my life who have passed on. It's important for me to have "places", real or imagined, to spend time with those loved ones... to be with whatever emotions that are ready to be felt on that day. And I really don't have to go to the exact place where my loved ones are buried to find that connection. Where I live in California, I am blessed with so many areas of natural beauty. "My River of Forever" was definitely inspired by a trail that borders the waters that flow from the nearby mountains into the Pacific Ocean. This trail, in a canyon, provides the perfect privacy... an easy place for me to "have a talk". I suspect that many people who live near rivers, lakes or streams also wander down to the water to "talk" and remember. And for those of you who don't have a water's edge to walk to, you can take the journey in your imagination through this song. It's a beautiful meditative experience about going to the edge of the river at day's end to spend time with your loved one.
You're the New Angel
This song was written for a family facing the death of their child. It was an extremely emotional and painful situation to know that this death was going to happen. It was a rare opportunity to work with these special parents during this waiting period. They were very intent in preparing ahead for the memorial service and especially selecting the perfect music. This careful preparation was a significant part of their grieving process. In their own search they had already discarded the usual memorial songs. They did not want to rely on Disney tunes, lullabies or songs about someone else's story. We searched through more music together but no song surfaced that was really quite right to express their impending loss. I knew then that I would be composing a song for them so I proceeded to interview them to get a clearer sense of what they were experiencing. What were they feeling? What were their fears? Their answers came out as questions in this way: "When you leave us, would you somehow let us know how heaven is?" "Will we be able to find you from here?" "Could you look for me?" "Would you watch over me?" I wrote it all down and went home to see if I could capture, in a song, enough of what they felt. This family's desire to have a song tell their story became "You're the New Angel". On the day of the memorial I performed this song on a 12-string guitar. The arrangement of this recording has beautiful performances on classical guitar and cello.
This song has been used by so many families who have lost loved ones of all ages...
not only for their memorials but long after to help heal their grief.
Angel in Waiting
This song is entitled "Angel in Waiting" because it is about that mysterious period between lives... or between life and death... and the beyond. “Angel in Waiting” is specifically about this particular moment of transformation. I actually have witnessed this transition many times in my music therapy work in Hospice and Palliative Care. I was guided very clearly to write a piece of music about this experience of our humanity. After being given the title of this song I was shown the exact form of how it was to be constructed. The opening vocal of the song provides the message. The middle section is about the movement of transition that occurs when the angels are coming in to retrieve the soul. The alternating G minor and A flat chords simulate the back and forth motion of making the exit from the body (and yes, it really can feel like this). Then the ascending piano part that follows is the rising motion of how the soul is reclaimed by the angelic realm and taken up. The climax of the song is the burst of instruments which ushers the soul into the new life and it soars upward. This moment of passage is exemplified through the use of the modulation (key change) from the key of “C” (earth/root/ground) into the key of “F” (heart center). This demonstrates the journey of our soul shifting out of our earthly physical form into the spirit form and its arrival into the “new beyond”. The last section is the return of the original melodic theme, however, it is in the new, higher key without words. The “Angel in Waiting” has arrived into their next expression of being. The same melody, now without lyrics, represents our need or longing, at first, to continue to recognize our loved one in some way but also to acknowledge their transformation into a new form.
Just Beyond Where Only
White Doves Fly
White Dove releases have become more popular for family memorial services and also for large public memorial events. There is such beauty to the flow of how the doves take to the sky and move into circular formation around the people who are gathered. When the doves are set free, they immediately form very quickly into a group and then make a few circles above. Often times they fly out of view only to return once more for another circular spiral. A white dove release is such a very powerful moment to witness and I felt that it really deserved it’s own soundtrack. The writing of this song is designed specifically to follow the action of how the doves are in motion from their release into the sky and into their spiral patterns. The concept of choosing white doves to escort our loved one's spirits toward a peaceful place is a very powerful one. I feel that it can bring inspiration and healing to those who are present for this experience and also for those who can just imagine it. The last four lines of the song were very intentionally written. These lines are for those remaining on earth witnessing; the ones that give permission for the release of their loved one to the white doves as they carry their Spirit to that place . . .
just beyond . . .
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