I suspect you know what it’s like to hear a song come on the radio and discover that it has carried you back to some distant time in your past. Before you know it, memories tumble forth–memories that you didn’t even realize were still living inside you. It’s as if the music drags the past into the present, and you experience all the hope or fear or sorrow or joy once more.
In “The Song Remembers When,” Trisha Yearwood sings about this mysterious power which music has to unearth long-buried memories. She reminds us that “even if the whole world has forgotten” something, the song remembers “when.”
But music not only remembers; it also imagines.
Music doesn’t so much drag the future into the present. It’s more like music pulls the curtains back enough for us to catch a glimpse of what’s coming.
I think I’ve always known this at some level. But as I watched a father dance with his daughter at her wedding this past Saturday night, I suddenly found myself swept by the music to a distant day in some as-yet-unlived story. And in that imagined “when,” I saw myself dancing with one of my daughters. And in that moment, at least, it seemed as if the time between this “now” and that “when” was awfully short.
It’s like that, isn’t it? All of those moments of wishing your children “would just grow up,” of saying the same things a thousand times and seeing no evidence that you’ve even spoken, of wanting time to speed up to get you past whatever the latest challenge is. And then something opens your eyes to the deeper truth that time is moving more quickly than you ever dreamed. And you would give anything to slow it down.
But time is like one of my children. No matter how much I plead with it to slow down, all it does is smile as it skips or jumps or cartwheels past, beckoning me to enjoy it while it’s still around.
And all the while the music plays. From “I was there to hear your bornin’ cry” to “pomp and circumstance” to “Canon in D” to “For all the saints, who from their labors rest” to the eternal “alleluias” we will one day sing, the music always invites us to remember and to imagine the beauty and depth of this time which bears us all away.