I lost my grandmother in May and these things helped me.
  1. Somersault by Zero 7 feat. Sia
    The first time I really listened to the lyrics was around the time my grandmother's health took its last, most serious turn. When Sia sings, "You give love to all, and give love to me," it felt like that line was surrounding me, as if it had been written about my grandmother by the stars. "When I feel the unknown, you feel like home, you feel like home."
  2. Ravel's Bolero
    The astoundingly beautiful and hypnotic melody of Bolero soothes me under almost any circumstances. But I also associate it heavily with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's legendary 1984 Olympic Ice Dance routine, which my grandmother adored. She and I used to sit for entire weekends and watch figure skating-- Olympic, US Championships, Worlds, all of it. It was a constant, and watching the 2015 US Championships relaxed her much when she was aching.
  3. Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens
    This is a song that is straightforward about its subject, which is loss, and the confusion that occurs both during the process and after the fact. Sufjan's delicate voice (figurative and literal) articulates what it is like to watch someone die, and the odd memories that come up and the ways your mind tricks you during that time. The opening line, "Goldenrod and the 4H stone, the things I brought you when I found out you had cancer of the bone," is indelible to me
  4. To Love Somebody by The Bee Gees
    The Bee Gees were my grandmother's favorite band, which is why I watched Saturday Night Fever when I was 7, and why I thought disco was considered cool by *everyone* until I was 12. Everything about this song is gorgeous, from the iconic strings that open it to Barry using his regular singing voice (!) and the accompanying harmonies. Sitting by the bed holding her hand, I thought over and over, "I want my life to be lived with you, lived with you."
  5. The Fighter by Simon and Garfunkel
    Gram's favorite S&G song was, of course, the one which sings, "In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down and cut him till he cried out, 'I am leaving, I am leaving,' but the fighter still remains."
  6. Castle on a Cloud
    I started skipping Castle on a Cloud in my Les Mis listening by the time I was 9. But when I was 6 years old, and I used to stand in front of Grammy's TV while the VHS of the Dreamcast concert played and I pretended to be little Cosette while she acted as audience, I was on top of the world. I am never annoyed by Cosette's dreamland anymore.
  7. The Past and Pending by The Shins
    When I first got depressed when I was in college, I did what any teen who watched movies in 2006 thought she was supposed to do: I listened to The Shins. I still find the quiet of Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow calming. The Past and Pending's production makes it sound like it was recorded in the room you're in. Some of the lyrics are as obtuse as James Mercer gets, but I sure do love when he sings, "in matters of love loss, we've no recourse at all."
  8. The Weight by The Band
    I listen to The Weight when I want to cry.
  9. Lavender Blue by Burl Ives
    "Great grandfather met great grandmother when she was a shy young miss..." The perfect little ditty, based on a folk song so sweet and simple. Old-timey but somehow not terribly dated, Lavender Blue is the ultimate "reminds you of your grandparents" song. The special bonus for me is that Burl Ives, with his fat belly, round face and distinctive voice, has always resembled my dear papa.
  10. Words
    This lovely song was originally by the Bee Gees, but eventually covered by the Irish boy band Boyzone, who Gram and I discovered performing in an Andrew Lloyd Weber birthday concert (I know. Read that one more time). Boyzone, despite their name, was more the "all five stand in front of a microphone" type rather than a choreography heavy pop group, and I was obsessed with their cover of this song-- so much so that I forced Grammy and Papa to listen to it on repeat during long car rides to Maine.