The Story of My Father
Trigger warning: This post deals with the death of a person by suicide and with sadness and grief.
The post is a bit rambling, but that was unavoidable with this profoundly emotional subject.
Okay, so here goes. I could not write a series of blogposts about music and forgo mentioning my father. He loved music as much as I did. I have many music-related memories of him. Memories, yes, because he is no longer among us.
In 2006 he took his own life. I was twenty-four at the time, and I was devastated. The whole world was swept from underneath me.
I’m mentioning this here because when I outlined this piece, I started with the theme of ‘songs that make me cry.’ And yes, all the music in this blog post make me cry, but then I noticed another common denominator: my father.
When growing up, it was my father who cared most about music in our household. As a kid, we didn’t listen to pop music. Instead, I was exposed to lots of classical music. As a teenager, we went to many classical concerts in Amsterdam, which I could attend at a discounted rate. I enjoyed this tremendously.
At home, we would listen to Classic FM radio, and joke about the music that was played. I remember us joking about that weird shrill whistle we noticed, only for the piece to be an excerpt from Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte,’ translated to ‘The Magic Flute.’ That explained the weird whistle.
Next to classical music, my father also loved Pink Floyd and Latin-American music.
Gethsemane – Jesus Christ Superstar
Let me start this story with a musical that I know for certain he loved: Jesus Christ Superstar.
The music from this show came back throughout my life. We had a vinyl of the music and every Easter we would either watch it on TV or play the album.
One very fond memory of mine is when my father and I went to see a performance of this musical in Carré, the fanciest theatre in Amsterdam. We both enjoyed it a lot. We would always joke about how even here, they had managed to give the role of Jesus to the actor with the least amount of charisma.
I love musicals, and I had listened to the modern remake of this musical many times. The movie version from 2000 is closest to the performance we saw live in the theatre.
I especially love the song ‘Gethsemane.’ I love to sing it (when alone and without the high note), and I always end in tears.
The other song I enjoy is ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him.’ I think I even cried during the show we attended.
Judas is my favourite character. His role in the musical is perfect. I love his criticism and snarkiness. I guess he’s the perfect bad boy in the play. He means well, he does everything with the best intentions, it just backfires, and in the end, he does more harm than good.
I can totally understand why this musical was a favourite of my dad’s.
Carmina Burana – Carl Orff
‘Carmina Burana’ is also an arrangement which we had on vinyl, and that was played a lot during my childhood. Our record had both the ‘Carmina Burana’ and Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ on it, so these two are forever intertwined for me.
When I was a teenager, I would play ‘Carmina Burana’ on my MiniDisc-player. I would put on my headphones and lie on bed to calm down during emotional times. It would always calm me down.
On three separate occasions, my father and I went to see a live performance of this classical piece. I remember one time specifically since it was played by a South-Korean orchestra. The singers would have a distinct lisp, which was almost adorable. The performance of the singer during the song about drinking was particularly memorable. You don’t often see a man stumbling, feigning to be drunk on the stage of the fancy Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Performance After His Passing
A couple years back I attended a performance of an actor friend of mine. He had the lead role in a play that was based around the music of the Carmina Burana. I cried the whole evening. It was the first performance of this arrangement that I attended after my father’s death. And it wasn’t that the play was particularly bad. The female choir was so-so, but the music elicited so many emotions in me, that I could not withstand it.
What is funny is that two of my favourite bands use songs from the Carmina Burana in their repertoire. Both Saltatio Mortis and Corvus Corax use ‘Totus Floreo,’ which is about attractive girls, and perform this song often. Their version is more upbeat than the classical original, and it’s a fun song, especially when live.
Corvus Corax has made two albums which are heavily inspired by this collection of songs by Orff. Their two ‘Cantus Buranus’ CDs are in the same style, though entirely written and orchestrated by Corvus themselves.
I have yet to attend a performance of this arrangement. They don’t perform it often since it costs too much money, they explained to me once. I do hope to see it live one day. I wish I could have shown this music to my father.
‘Into The West’ – Annie Lennox
Lord of the Rings
My father loved ‘Lord of the Rings’ by Tolkien. He would reread the books once per year.
By chance, I was at my father’s house when he went to see ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ in the cinema for the first time, and my brother was either unwilling or unable to join, so I accompanied my father. It was my first exposure to the story, but I remember my father’s shock that Tom Bombadil had been scrapped as well as other changes. I most distinctly remember being upset that the story ended right in the middle.
Upon the release of the third movie, I got my father and I tickets for a marathon evening at the cinema where they showed all three films in succession. It was a great night, where I also drank my first Red Bull. No, I’m not a fan, but they were handed out for free, and it helped to stay awake. Overall, it was a unique and exceptional experience.
My Father’s Wish
In my father’s goodbye letter that he left before he took his life, he mentioned this evening, hot it had been a special night to him.
In this same letter, he mentioned two songs that he wanted to be played during his funeral.
The first was ‘Concerning Hobbits’ from the soundtrack of The Fellowship of the Ring. My father mentioned how he loved the carefree, happy feeling of the Shire, how he envied their naivety, how open the world still seemed to them.
The Grey Havens
The second song he mentioned was ‘Into The West’ by Annie Lennox, which was also from the soundtrack of the first Lord of the Rings movie.
This song is about the travels to the Gray Havens where elves go when they leave Middle Earth. Their version of heaven, so to speak. I believe it was my father’s wish to find his Grey Havens, to find his own peace and happiness that he could not find here on Earth.
Lord of the Rings Online
To this day, I play Lord of the Rings Online, an RPGMMO set in Middle Earth. He loved MMO’s and played Everquest to his final days. He would have loved to play an immersive MMO where you can walk around in Middle Earth. Even when the game loses its appeal to me, in honour of my father’s memory, I will come back to it. In my mind, it brings me a smidgeon closer to my dad.
Christina Aguilera – Hurt
This song is the most emotional for me. Listening to it now, almost thirteen years later, it feels like a bandage is ripped off and a bare wound is left open.
I remember going to a psychologist eleven years ago, and she said it was wrong for me to still cry so hard when talking about my father. And now, listening to this song, it transports me back to the first days after his death. The haze, the disbelief, the confusion.
The song was a hit around that time, and almost every line reflects my situation, my feelings.
What makes it extra sour, is that the last e-mail I received from my father was regarding a blog post I had written when I had visited a Christina Aguilera concert. He said he would have loved to go there too. I had attended the show with a friend, I hadn’t even considered that my father would have liked to see it.
How to Deal with Grief
In all honesty, I don’t think I’m dealing with my father’s death the wrong way or poorly. In even more honesty, I don’t want to lose these tears. They’re who I am. I’m an emotional person, and my father was the person who I loved most in the world. Yes, I miss him a lot. If only he had sought help. If only…
But that doesn’t change a thing. Suicide is final. Death is final.
My tears are a way of honouring him. I don’t want to be a cold, calloused grown-up.
I know my father would have been proud of my writing, as he was proud of everything I undertook.
I only have to look at my hands to see his fingers. My handwriting nowadays often resembles his. I miss him, yes, every day. I would have loved to tell him how my cat jumped into the refrigerator this morning or how he overslept his snacking moment yesterday. I would have loved to take him to a Corvus Corax concert. I would have loved to raid with him together in Lord of the Rings Online.
It Hurts, but Life Goes On
I’m not paralysed by grief, it’s just an integral part of me that I will never lose. By now, I’ve done performances without him in the audience. I’ve published books and stories that would have made him very proud.
I am still here while he is not. My tears are still here, and every now and then they come pouring out. It let them. I feel the pain. I wipe the tears off, and I move on. That is what living with grief means to me.