Whether I come up with a catchy descriptor or not, the musical links help me keep the memories alive:
- For the grandmother who I never really got to know because she died when I was still a self-centered teenager, it's "Memories of Green" by Vangelis, from the "Blade Runner" soundtrack. The tinkly piano sounds just like the one in the basement of the Baptist church she'd attended for decades, where we had lunch after her funeral.
- For the other grandmother, who died when I was an adult, it's Annie Lennox's "No More I Love You's." It was popular at the time, the line "Language is leaving me" captured my sense of helplessness and my inability to express my grief verbally, and of course "No more I-love-you's" resonates when you've just lost someone who's literally stood at your side through good times and bad.
- And a year later, Grandpa died. He'd claimed not to miss Grandma at all—they'd bickered incessantly for as long as I could remember—but he went downhill quickly when she was gone. He'd worked hard all his life, so for him, it's "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve: 'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life; Trying to make ends meet; Trying to find some money then you die.
- For another relative who is no longer a member of my family, by my choice rather than by death, it's "One" by U2:
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can't be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt
- For a supervisor who was also my friend, one with whom I could use my whole vocabulary without being called a "smartass" and who died unexpectedly after a brief illness, it's "In Paradisum" from Gabriel Fauré's Requiem. I'm not the tiniest bit religious (reportedly Fauré wasn't very devout either, despite setting the Catholic Mass for the Dead to music); I'm not comforted by fantasies of my friend and relatives being in some postmortem paradise. It's just a beautiful piece of music that I first encountered a few months before my boss died, and when I was mourning him, I found it comforting.
I'll take beauty wherever I can find it.