The word for word lyrics of life aren’t always as important as the overall feel of the song, but every so often there’s a specific message that comes up in a line or two.
I don’t know how to read music, but I do understand tone, and how messages through music encompass a communication that can surpass both language and understanding. The mystery of music reaches beyond time and space in a way that fills and opens me simultaneously.
In Europe, during the 12th century, there was a mystic named “Hildegard Von Bingen” (1098-1179). She was given (the tenth child in her family) as a tithe to the catholic church. As time passed, she grew to become a well respected, yet visionary Nun, who drew from ancient wisdom, that views the entire cosmos as a perfectly harmonized music. She taught that every being, every entity, and every movement produces a sound that is inaudible to most, yet in harmonic relation to all other sounds.
We are all communicating with everyone and everything around us always; creating a great field of resonance, some of it audible and some inaudible.
My colleague Rex and I shared both an audible and inaudible harmony in the work we did together. Very often we would show up to work dressed in the same color, share the same thought at the same time, or hand each other the exact thing that one of us was looking for, but hadn’t verbalized yet.
Rex had a way of being able to “tune-in” with friends, coworkers and clients alike. I would surmise that his experience as gifted musician played a part in the refinement of his craft as a good listener, not just to the words you were saying, but more so, the place you were coming from as you said it.
Amidst our work in tandem with each other, Rex and I would occasionally sit and talk, sometimes just in passing, and other times our conversation would reach into the depths of the soul. One seemingly ordinary conversation, occurred just two months before his passing. We had both just finished up a session with our clients, when he came into my office and leaned against the frame of my office door, in a way that always made me smile to myself. He was bringing me a small gift of the latest Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD. He told me that, long ago, it had been one of our conversations that started him thinking seriously about trying out to sing in the “MoTab” in the first place.
Trial is a great word for it, we spoke often during this time of his trepidation and personal drive, as Rex went through rigorous tryouts and music theory testing, voice lessons and countless hours of musical study, and was eventually accepted. I always thought he was the loveliest low tenor-high baritone, so I wasn’t surprised when I turned to my doorway one morning to see him stomping toward me with a broad smile, arms outstretched and saying: “I made it!”
This past spring, as he handed me the CD, I couldn’t help laughing as I told him that I was just planning to download it the night before, but something stopped me. I had recently been given a new car that has the most incredible sound system, yet I was playing one CD repeatedly and was ready for a change.
Without missing a beat, he said: “You know, your voice has always reminded me of Stevie Nicks.” We both chuckled as I admitted to him that the CD I had been playing was Fleetwood Mac. He told me that he thought my voice and Stevie Nicks share a similar timbre that’s familiar to him.
This simple conversation took on a much deeper meaning to me months later, on the first day I drove to work, to the office I shared with my dear, kind, beloved Rex; my first time back since he passed.
I got into my car and hit the disc button to listen to the MoTab CD that he had given me, on which he sang as a member of the choir. The CD was titled “Heaven’s Song”. I needed something to soothe my heart that was still in raw trauma from his unexpected illness and passing.
I was frustrated when the song that started was Stevie Nicks voice. My hand reached over to correct my apparent error when I paused, and with a sigh of reservation let it play.
Driving to work, I tuned into the lyrics and I heard this song (that I had been listening to since the 1970s) for the first time. I pulled my car into his usual spot, in the parking lot, as the last words faded in my ears, and my tears overflowed with the ending lyrics:
“...there was a heartbeat, but it never really died...never really died...”
Having arrived at CottonTree, I sat in my car waiting to walk in. I could feel he knew how hard it was for me to walk back into our office alone, peeled open, fresh from such a sacred time of attending to him for days in the hospital.
He was encouraging me with the same love I knew from him always. As I entered the small upstairs annex, our office space had such a sacred feel to it, that remains to this day. Throughout the morning, several of his clients and the doctors and staff from downstairs quietly filed in to take a moment just to sit in his space.
I went home early that afternoon, sat down on my couch and pulled up the lyrics to the Fleetwood Mac song “Sara” on my laptop. As I read through the lyrics from beginning to end, one line jumped out from all the others to prick my consciousness, as she sang the words:
“...and the Starling flew for days.”
I felt my heart gently beat inside me. I sensed that something in this line was directing me to dig deeper. I could feel an almost tactile sensation of Rex gently nudging me to follow my heart and learn more about the word Starling. I googled it without understanding why it engaged me so. I knew it was a bird, so I was expecting to get my woo-woo-yoga-mama deeper meaning of some ancient imagery behind the starling bird...
My eyes scrolled downward, looking for something related to bird imagery, when one line on the google search struck a deep chord in me that reverberated through my body. I placed my cursor over a link that said: “The Starling Principle-New Views on Tissue-Fluid Balance and Edema Formation” and clicked it.
I felt Rex close, as if he was resting his chin on my shoulder, as I read a medical explanation of one of the primary factors that contributed to his death. I was stunned. No starling bird...The Starling Principle.
The medical article on the “Starling Principle of the Heart” that I had clicked on described what we were witnessing in the last two weeks of his life as his health deteriorated. The information filled in big questions that had distressed me at the time, when we were all trying to understand what was happening with him.
Rex, through this Fleetwood Mac song, that related to a conversation between us from over a month before he had ever been sick, was helping me understand things more clearly related to his passing. Though unaware of it at the time, I reflected on what a gift this was to my grieving and troubled heart, in that moment, walking in alone to our office for the first time. I thought to myself how much I loved that he was communicating to me through music, that his song continues so clearly. How perfect, still the quintessential musician, still listening for just the right ways to help. As I read, I felt his joy; something to the tune of:
“I knew Syl would search it out and get it!”
My body was flooded with his smile, and I immediately recalled vividly, a quiet time when I was rubbing his swollen feet and legs in his hospital room. I looked up to see him kindly smiling at me. He clasped his fingers behind his head and leaned back and with eyes closing, said to me appreciatively:
“Everybody needs a Syl”
I could swear he was saying it to me again in this moment.
Over the next little while, I reviewed those days in the hospital in my mind and reflected on the words in the line Stevie Nicks had written:
“Hold on, the Night is coming...and the Starling flew for days”.
Heart to heart, I felt such gratitude for his spirit as I thought: "Sweet, sweet Rex, we were all there with you, during your final weeks, as the “Starling” flew for days and days in your body. My heart is so full and broken together, grateful for this message, and mostly, your trust in me to “get it".
Rex was always so gifted at explaining things. He knew how to attune to where you were when he was with you, as a therapist, co-worker or friend.
During those early days in this healing process, my analytical mind had been circling over and over, what could I, or should I have done better or differently. He knew I needed to relax a bit, and he was gently guiding me into that space. Once I could get past the questioning, then Rex could begin to bridge our relationship from where it had been when we were working in body together, to where it is now evolving, as he shows me how easily his spirit is still able to reach the contemplative aspect of my soul.
He knew that it was important for me to understand that he is all right, he knows what happened, and is okay with it. Rex told me just days before he passed that he had no fear of death. If I really trust him, it’s important that I learn that the experience with him is not over just because he isn’t here with us in body.
It has taken me a while to be willing to share this very sacred story. I really just want to hold it in my own heart, yet over the past few weeks, I have felt a nudging that I needed to write it out, that it may be of small comfort to others who are missing him at this tender time of year.
Many years on Christmas Eve Morning, I would meet with Rex at our office. After he finished with a client or two, we would spend several hours together as I gave him a leisurely Thai Partner Yoga Session. It will forever be one of my favorite memories with him. It was such an honor to care for the caregiver to so many, and such a beautiful way to feel the Holiness of the season, as the Christmas Eve hours drew close. So on this particular morning, I could think of no better way to spend my time than honoring his life in some small way here.
Noel & Namaste Dear, Kind, Good Rex.