Music and grief

Our elderly and Highly Opinionated tortoiseshell cat, Cleopatra, died recently. She made it to her 20th birthday last month, which astonished us all. Privately, I think she wasn’t about to let the dog outlast her. (Oka, our wonderful German Shepherd Dog, died only 3 days earlier.)

It’s a bit much to take in, the loss of two pets within a week. We’re keeping an eye on the black cat who was Oka’s buddy. He wanders around the house, clearly looking for Oka. (He still has a cat friend, one-eyed lady pirate Gayatri.)

I’ve been studying piano as an adult for about 7 or 8 years now. I play mostly classical, but add in fun stuff, too, like music from The Lord of the Rings. Earlier this spring, I began working on “Into the West.” It’s an easy setting, and it’s flowing nicely, although in a key I can’t sing. That’s okay. Since Oka died, I’ve played it with tears streaming down my face. “All dogs pass…into the west.” The music brings up grief in a way words can’t. A healing way, a gentle way that lets me go as deep as is right for me at the moment. It’s not the same as listening to music because I’m inside of it, I’m creating it right now in this moment and no two performances are ever the same. It reminds me poignantly of how pets live in the “now.

My recent practices are a little different. One of my serious pieces is the 3rd Gymnopedie by Satie. The tempo is Lento e grave. I slowed it a bit, focusing on the full tone of each chord, and realized I was playing it for both animals. The right hand melody soars above the funeral bass rhythm in that aeolian mode. Sweet and sad and profoundly honoring the memory of these friends-in-fur.

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Music and grief — 6 Comments

  1. That sounds like a productive way to process grief, Deb. (Better than drink or needle drugs.) Surely our pets are one of the great joys of life.

  2. I’ve had a couple of musical commitments recently. I have found myself singing to my late father, rather emphatically.

  3. Thank you for sharing… I’ve rarely listened to music in the past 10 years due to many losses, I intend to get back to it and playing piano, now that I’m back in the house of my childhood, where an upright lives.