I first noticed it last summer at the ballpark during the National Anthem. The crowd stands; I put hand on heart and look to read their lips and sing along. I stammer, then draw a blank. How does it go? I know every word, of course; but I can’t sing it. I forget the melody—jeez, even to The Star Spangled Banner!
It was a cruel realization—my memory of musical melodies was fading away. Two years ago, I was stricken deaf at the age of 48 and external song was suddenly denied. Then, as weeks of silence became months, I began to forget the sound of sound. Within a year, I could rarely play a tune in my head anymore. Sadly, all music—external and internal—were effectively gone.
Inner Voice Dreams
So imagine my joy in slumber last night when I dreamt a complete orchestra! It was playing the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D by Edward Elgar. England’s famous anthem, Land of Hope and Glory, we know it best here as the Graduation March. I could hear it vividly in my mind’s eye—the violins, French horns, clarinets, trumpets, symbols, harps and drums, all in perfect harmony! Every illustrious note was crystal—bracing, majestic, bold, profound.
This dream was not the usual “I can hear again!” cure fantasy. Nor was I dreaming about an event—there were no ceremony and no ensemble anywhere imagined. In fact, I wasn’t dreaming about the external world at all. No, this dream was not about my ears; it was about my inner voice.
My spirits skyrocket as I conjure the Graduation March. My inner voice can sing once more!
My memory of beautiful music had returned and the melodies in my mind resonated powerful again. My spirits skyrocket as I conjure the Graduation March to ring glorious within me! I am elated in REM-sleep, overwhelmed at the dreamy miracle—my inner voice can sing once more!
It Plays and We Stand
Then the fanciful music suddenly evaporates without a trace. I stir awake and silence grips me. My harmonious fantasy is over and I can’t recall a single note. I’m fully awake now, and I have no clue what Pomp and Circumstance sounds like anymore.
Still it was an awesome trance! And why not? Edward Elgar’s grand composition is a perennial classic played this time every year at graduation ceremonies everywhere. Few instrumentals share its universal prominence. Its familiar grandiloquence harks right-of-passage and stirs millions to the eminence of the moment—it plays and we stand!
And so we should. Graduation—from preschool to university—captivates the human spirit as no other milestone. We stand hopeful at the crossroad and remind lessons learned; we ponder life’s meaning and purpose; and we implore youth of all ages to follow their hearts, shoot for the stars and change the world—all timelessly captured in Elgar’s triumphant swan song.
The Best of Me
At my own college graduation, I stood at the podium and delivered The Grateful-Kid Speech just like you see in the movies: “Thanks Mom and Dad for being there no matter where I was.” It was a plain one-liner, the only utterance in my 8-minute remarks that mentioned them. But it was the best of me. So precious was the moment. My stunned parents were moved to tears. So was I.
That really happened. It was May 1984. Later, Mom told me that my speech at graduation was among the proudest moments of her life. She also confided that my father—a man of very few words and little emotion—was equally taken by my performance. She recalled that Dad mused as I took the stage; and stared teary-eyed, whispering, “Look at him, look at him.”
They are still the best of me, transfixed in one brief shining moment
Twenty-one months later my mother passed away suddenly while I was at graduate school. My father has been deceased for many years too, both parents taken long before their natural time. Gone now for decades, they are still the best of me, transfixed in one brief shining moment as Pomp and Circumstance pealed glorious.
My daughter Amanda graduates from high school and will begin her own college journey this fall. Of course, I thought Amanda was perfect the day she was born. But then she grew up and really was!
After many dedicated years as full-time single parent and part-time college student, the mother of my children courageously completed her bachelor’s degree with honors. My niece—my older brother’s daughter and the first of that generation—just finished college too.
And my cousin’s daughter, who has stolen my heart as if she were my own, is also marching the final university mile. That’s a lot of family graduations.
Relish the Dream
And I will be there for them all. I will proudly stand as the band plays the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D. I will not hear the music or even remember how it used to sound. But I relish my dream. And in my blessed silence, I will pray, “Thanks Mom and Dad for being there…”
The resonance of Pomp and Circumstance is so powerful that you don’t need ears or even an inner voice to hear it. Just know the band plays to honor your life and those you love; and relish a dream!
Happy graduation to all.