In Suzanne Collins’ book The Hunger Games characters Katniss and Peeta are District 12’s Tributes in the Games. (For those you haven’t read the book (A) you need to and (B) I promise to keep the spoilers to a minimum.)
The rules have changed and now they can work together as a team to win the games. In one moment sitting in the wilderness of the arena, the two teenagers begin to discuss life back in District 12.
As they recall memories, Katniss remembers her father. A man whose life and death was by the coal mines. A man, who when he sang, “even the birds stop to listen.” Singing not only reminds Katniss of her father, but also how much she misses having him around. Singing was something he taught her how to do and something she recalled while in the wilderness of the arena. Since his death, she has had to grow up and become the leader, supplier, and caretaker of her family. In in the midst of these added responsibilities, Katniss had stopped singing. She reflects:
It strikes me that my own reluctance to sing, my own dismissal of music might not really be that I think it’s a waste of time. It might be because it reminds me too much of my father.
A few weeks ago in worship we sang the hymn, “In the Garden.” I had to stop singing it. It was one of those moments where if there was a rock for me to crawl under, I would. But, there was no rock. It reminded me of Dad. As his grave side service concluded, the bell tower at the cemetery began to “sing” this hymn.
Music was a central piece to my father’s faith. He sang in a group at our church called the Gospel 7 since its beginnings. Still to this day there are certain songs that he sang with this group that when I hear them I pause for a moment because it reminds me of him.
For the longest time I would avoid those songs because the memories were so painful. For example I couldn’t hear “Go, Rest High on that Mountain,” a song originally recorded by Vince Gill that Dad sang in church often, without missing him to the point of being in physical pain. But now, I add songs like “Go, Rest High on that Mountain” to my iPod so that when the music shuffles through to that song and others like it, I remember.
I remember his powerful witness through song. I remember riding in his old Chevy truck listening to cassette tapes of the songs he was learning to sing. I remember sitting in wooden pews listening to him sing during church. And now, instead of bringing pain, the memories bring me comfort and peace.
In a way, with these songs and memories, Dad is always with me.