First off, I’m not going to tell you the name of the song.
It’s a sunny Sunday morning, and the west side is bustling. Lots of traffic on the streets, lots of pedestrians on the sidewalks. It seems like everybody’s in a hurry, and maybe they are. We cannot expect many more Sundays like this one before the days grow cold and gray, so we rush to make the most of them.
I expect that there’s music on in most of the cars, and that many of the pedestrians are plugged into earbuds. We can live surrounded by music all day every day if we want to, and often it becomes background noise, like the rumble of the traffic. From time to time, however, a song elbows its way to the foreground. It might be something new, something we have overlooked—or an old song we have heard 10,000 times before.
Why does that happen? How do songs that are as familiar as the weather suddenly grab our attention and make us listen as if we were hearing them for the first time? Now and then they do, and you know they do, because the same thing happens to you. And on this particular day, one of the old and familiar songs of my life is shining to rival the sun.
I’m not going to tell you the name of the song, because you probably wouldn’t know it.
It’s one of those songs that builds tension and then releases it in an exquisite rush, and I am eagerly anticipating that moment. But as it comes upon me, the rush I feel is not what I am expecting. At that moment of release, my eyes start welling up. There I am, at a busy stoplight on a Sunday morning waiting for the light to change, and I want to cry.
I’m not going to tell you the name of the song, because what does it to me wouldn’t do it to you.
As the song fades and I blink back the tears, I know what just happened. We have moments in which see our lives whole. The dreams we had and the way they came true—or didn’t. The ways in which we have succeeded, and in which we have failed. What we have done, and what we have left undone. We see the faces and hear the voices of those we love and those we have lost. Everything that was, everything that is—and, perhaps, everything that is going to be—rushes in on us all at once. Sometimes a song makes it happen. And when it does, the only appropriate response is tears, for the good fortune we have enjoyed, for the losses we have endured, and perhaps for both, equally.
But I’m not going to tell you the name of the song—because you have your own.