Yesterday a man in a white t-shirt and skate shoes walked into a charity shop on the high street. He bought three CD’s, all by the same artist, and he paid twice the asking price for each. The woman in the shop recognised him, she said hello, said it was nice to see him again, asked how he was. He spoke very few words and barely made eye contact, then he left with his CD’s and went straight home.
Today, that same man is standing outside of that same charity shop, only this time the shop is closed. There’s a note on the door; Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will remain closed until further notice – apologies for any inconvenience caused. The man stares at the note, as if waiting for the screen to change; to somehow flick over to the next update. But it won’t. Several minutes pass and nothing changes. He just stands there, staring at the note, and holding the three CD’s he had purchased yesterday.
One year ago there was a new Mayor elected in the town; a cheerful woman, who had lived most of her life in the area and was well liked by just about everyone. She took on her new responsibilities with great honour and determination. She publicly outlined all that she would try to improve, and the ways in which she might do it. She asked that anyone who wished to be involved would come forward and play their part. She put together a team, and within that team; dozens of smaller teams, each interested in and mildly skilled at a particular area of local development. She organised fund-raisers and community events.
In just six months, the old nursery and play-school building had been completely redecorated, kitted out with wonderful new ways to keep the children happy and constantly learning. She also saw to it that all public services went back to the five star quality with which they had been originally intended. Wages were raised where possible, a variety of bonuses were offered to businesses of all sizes, and their employees, and a new youth centre was opened up in the old fire station building. Things were looking so much better than they ever had before, and everyone could see it.
Then one morning, about three months ago now, the Mayor’s husband came down to the kitchen of their home, to find a broken bottle of milk on the floor, and his wife, lying face down, motionless, in the corner of the room. His heart sank. He battled to save her, called for an ambulance, called her name, kissed her, tried to wake her. But she was gone. He would never get her back. He would never hear her speak again. She would never look into his eyes, with that smile so bright that anything seemed possible. He would never dance with her again. Their life together was over.
The evening before she died, the Mayor had made a list of songs that she thought would be great for the next community gathering. They were all fairly upbeat; the sort of songs to get everyone feeling good, feeling confident, chatting to each other, dancing, relaxing. They were all by the same artist though, and her husband had pointed out that maybe a little variation would be a good idea, for a party; that people might notice if it’s just the one singer all night.
She said to him, perhaps, but these are the best songs in the world. He smiled at her, and as always, she smiled back; with such brightness – This, she said, is my all time favourite play list. It will remind me not to get too caught up in the stress of all of this. Plus, it will be so much fun to watch people quietly notice the undeclared theme. Her husband laughed, his ‘fake laugh’, as she so often called it, but then he looked at her with deep admiration. She said – sometimes I still just want to be me.
Two weeks later, after the funeral, after all of the formalities, things were relatively normal again in the town. A new mayor would be elected soon enough, things would continue, the world would keep spinning, life would go on. But for the man who had lost the love of his life, time had stopped. Time had run out. There was nothing much else he could do with his life, and yet, at the same time, he knew that there must be some way of finding himself again. He couldn’t just give up. He had to try, at the very least, if only for her – if only to carry on, to learn from how she lived, to keep going with all that she had taught him.
He remembered the songs she had written down. He took the list, he walked down to the local charity shop on the high street, and after only ten minutes or so, he had managed to find three CD’s, which, between them, had each and every song from her list. He wanted the songs for himself, but he also wanted to give something back, so he paid twice what was asked of him, and he took the CD’s home.
He played the music loud, louder than he ever had before, and he managed to remember so many of the wonderful days that he and his wife had spent together. He recognised so many of the songs; they conjured up such specific memories that it was almost like she’d known all along. These songs were a part of their life together. It felt good to listen. It felt like she was there again, right there with him, smiling and dancing and making the world seem beautiful.
The next morning, he took the CD’s back. Perhaps he hoped someone else would buy them, they could enjoy them too, the charity would make some extra money. But by the evening he regretted his decision intensely. He couldn’t go back to that house without the music. Not yet. It wasn’t impossible, he knew the time would come when things would be better, but he just wasn’t ready.
He went back to the shop, he bought the CD’s again, paying twice what was asked, and the woman in the shop simply greeted him with kindness and gratitude. She knew who he was. She knew what he had been through. She didn’t understand his actions, but who are we to expect to understand everything? She accepted it, and in a way, she was glad he was out of the house. He took the CD’s home, and surely enough, returned them again the very next morning. This went on for weeks and weeks. Until today.
As he stood there staring at the note, he felt overwhelmed with both sadness and hope. Nothing would ever be the same again, the world he knew was gone, but there could still be life. He had to believe it; that’s exactly what she had always believed. There can still be life. And until you find it; there will be memories, there will be lessons, there will be moments. There will be a whole ocean of times and troubles and heart breaking nostalgia. And if all of that is too little, or perhaps, more probably, too much; there will be music. And that’s something you can keep. There will always be music.