“All the very best of us / String ourselves up for love.”
— The National, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”
It was some day in mid-March of this year that my grandpa passed. I don’t even remember the date off the top of my head — I’m not sure if that’s bad. Within all the madness of out-of-state family flying in for the memorial and the stress of having to deal with all the logistical problems that come with the death of a loved one, there was one thing I could do to escape the craziness: go to my room, put on some headphones and turn the volume up. And that’s where I found my most moving way to say goodbye — by letting every emotion I had, expected or unexpected, out through the music.
It’s really odd how unexpectedly important a song can become to you in certain situations. In the aftermath of death I poured myself entirely into the National’s 2010 record, “High Violet,” as the lyrics mentioned above rang in my head. As it turned out, I had tickets to see the National the night after the memorial in the morning. As the band decided to close with “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” lead singer Matt Berninger dropped his microphone and sang in unison with the crowd, arms outstretched on the edge of the stage, almost in the audience. After everything I had been through in the past week, it was a cathartic moment I couldn’t have imagined and won’t soon forget.
To speak more directly relevant to our situation as students, even a popular song on the radio that you may be completely tired of right now can flash you back to the best times in an instant. Seriously, when you hear “Pompeii” in 20 years, tell me it won’t remind you of college. Any songs shared with friends, or that you listened to while cramming or writing that paper at 3 a.m., will likely take you back. And though the end of college isn’t goodbye forever, it is a moment of temporary finality — if that makes any sense — and having a song to associate with whatever struggles or joys you had at the time can bring a sense of closure, and nostalgia that otherwise only a time machine may bring back.
So don’t wait for that time machine — let your tunes be your time machine to bring you back when you need to. Don’t be afraid to blast your stereo and look like a fool with your friends, or to listen to your guilty pleasure to get you through your ridiculous amount of schoolwork. Don’t be afraid to string yourself up for the love of what’s in front of you — grasp it while you still can, and hold on until the time is over. As Frank Turner says in “The Ballad of Me and My Friends,” “If you’re all about the destination, then take a f—-n’ flight.”
And to Grandpa Bob — the last words you told me were to write an article “about how great this hospital was.” To whoever is reading this, Riverside Kaiser is truly a great hospital — and their comforting voices were music to our ears as we watched him go.