This story was written to and inspired by the following piece of music. This waltz, composed by a young Anthony Hopkins, was never officially recorded. I discovered it on YouTube and was struck not only by the music, but the beautiful video to go with it. I would recommended watching the video after reading the following story.
Well… It was never something I thought to tell anybody. But you’ve always been my special girl, so I guess something special’s what you’ll get.
The first time was in the war. Harvey and me joined together, you remember — I’ve told you stories about Harvey. From recruitment to his last days, we were together, and I wouldn’t have given it for the world. But on his final day, when he was laying there and I was sitting by his bed, I was telling him stories you know, to make him laugh and take his mind off things. We were talking about back home, and I heard this faint noise beginning to grow, like a violin. I looked around, I thought someone turned on the radio, but we were alone. It gets louder, this song, like I’ve never heard before, but I look around and I’m the only one hearing it. It grew to this big section of strings and horns and cymbals — my god it was surreal, you wouldn’t believe. And then, with the final note, it was over. Just gone. And I looked over, Harvey with this goofy grin on his face, and he just closed his eyes, and… that was that.
After that day, I started hearing it all the time, different songs nobody could hear. I didn’t tell anyone, didn’t want to get discharged, you know, for being cuckoo. But it was different every time, this music I never heard before, and by the end of every song, someone would pass. Every time. People screaming and guns firing and I’m the crazy guy in a pit hearing classical music. It was the darnedest thing.
To be honest, until your Mom got sick, I’d forgotten all about it. I wasn’t around death anymore. But when I heard that first violin, very gentle, off in the distance, I panicked. I knew something was wrong. You were much too little to remember, but I was a little off my rocker after that. Every doctor visit, every pill, I did everything I could, but it grew a little louder. Another instrument, a few more notes, every day, it was constant. Like in my ears, always, “She’s dying, and there’s nothing you can do.”
When the day finally came, I was pretty far gone. Your dad was right with her, I was too, everyone terrified but her. She saw it in my face, and she smiled that little grin, she’d always had such a cute smile, and even laughed a little. Everyone crying because she’s on her way out, and she’s laughing! Can you believe? And she looks me in the eyes, and says, “That song, you’ve been humming… It’s so beautiful. Would you sing it for me?”
And I almost didn’t hear her, the music in my ears was so loud, you know, but in that moment something clicked. This song, this death song that had been rattling in my head for months took on something new. The song was my daughter’s, my beautiful daughter’s beautiful song. Like all of her memories in one perfect melody, and in that moment I knew how lucky I was to hear it. So I started at the beginning, just humming along, and held your mom’s hand as she smiled and I took the journey through her life to the end, right there with her.
Oh well, don’t cry now. It’s not a bad thing, you hear? It’s so wonderful that we got to share that before she left. It was a gift. And it still is. Maybe for some people, death is truly scary. They forget about the rest of their life, all that’s happened, and get swallowed all up by this thing, this dying. But some miracle graced me with this ability, and I wanted to share that with people. That’s why I did what I did all those years, right here in this hospital. I shared the wonderful music of their lives back with them, showed them how beautifully they’d lived, and took that fear away. My daughter… Your lovely mother showed me that.
So that’s what I wanted to share with you, sweetheart. If you take anything away from your old gramps, know this: it’ll be okay. I can hear my own song now, and I’m okay. Such a beautiful mixture of all of the wonderful melodies I’ve touched in my time. I’m happy, hon. So don’t you go crying any longer. You’ll be alright. I’ll always be with you, in a little song in your heart. If you listen hard enough, you might hear me from time to time, just reminding my little sweetheart that I’m proud of her… that I’ll always love her.