Daddy sang sad songs to me in the car. I was four and then five, and I begged him to sing them one after another as I cried in the seat beside him. There was no safety belt save for his arm that shot lightning-fast across my mid-section if he sensed danger. In spite of his oft-inebriated state, I felt safe.
I never really questioned why I loved those sad songs until I was much older, and then only really as curiosity was piqued thinking back over those days of just him and me in a little blue VW Bug. The songs were terrible, really, but I couldn’t seem to hear them enough. For a long time I never fully understood why.
One song was about a dying girl telling her parents to give away all her toys and things, but to please put her little shoes away. Another was called “Little Angel with a Dirty Face”, a father singing to his daughter about how her mother had gone to Heaven when she was born. They were just awful, but I wanted to hear them over and over.
I’ve thought a lot about why as a tiny little girl I wanted to continually hear these songs that made me sob in the passenger’s seat, surely unable to fully process the deeper themes and meanings behind the lyrics. Over time I began to wonder if maybe it wasn’t the sadness I wanted to steep myself in, but the implication of hope when the healing came.
I’ve always believed healing would come.
Seven years later as a confused pre-teen I stood by a coffin staring into daddy’s face, peaceful and silent. No more sad songs, no more laughter, no more twinkling blue eyes as he dunk-tapped the ice in his jelly glass of sweet tea. No more just him and me.
Years later I would watch my baby daughter lowered into the earth in a little white box, then later my brother, and later still I would sit by a bedside holding my mother’s hand as color drained from her face and her sweet spirit floated up.
And in all this loss, all this singing of sad songs and tears that came with each note, the hope has never been far behind. It’s because I know my hope doesn’t rest here in this place, doesn’t come from this temporal life even as beautiful as it is.
My hope comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth. Somewhere deep down I’ve always known that, even long before I knew who the Lord is. I had to know, or I can’t imagine I would have wanted to hear those tear-jerkers again and again. To me, they weren’t just sad songs; they were reminders of a hope that lives beyond what we can see here.
I think I’ve always seen sadness this way. My heart must have always received it as a reminder that when I hope in Him, sadness will always turn to joy.