Finding Simplicity in Death

I received word on Tuesday that my great, great Aunt Gerry had passed away at the age of 85 years. While this announcement didn’t shock me, as she had been on a roller coaster of health issues the past several months, it instead built up my concern for my family. This was mainly for my mother, the only relative that lived within fifteen minutes to Aunt Gerry’s home.

I’m not going to say that my experience with death of family members was ever easy–I mean hey, it’s death. But at the same time, when the announcement of a death in my family comes around, I always get concerned with the issues the closest family members have to handle. The will, the funeral arrangements, writing the obituary–all things that have to be taken care of, all while mourning the loss of a loved one. While I, fortunately, have never had to deal directly with those problems, I still see the toll it takes on my mom and her sister, in each instance that they have had to do this.

Death itself has never scared me. It’s an inevitable fate for all of us, and there is literally no way to avoid it. We’ve all felt the pain of loss at one point or another. But today, as we brought Aunt Gerry’s casket to the cemetery, something struck a chord in me.

It could have been the knowledge of the car Aunt Gerry left me (much to my surprise). It might have been the poor little Chow she left behind. It could have been the fact that it was my first time as a pall bearer. It also could have been the pastor’s sermon, which to me seemed a bit too negative and fear-mongering. It even could have been all of these things in tandem, causing me my stress. Whatever factor or combination of factors it may have been, I realized, while death itself is simple,  its immediate after effects are overwhelmingly complicated.

My only relief from this great amount of stress was a poem my mom found, written by my grandmother who passed away in 2004, addressed to Aunt Gerry on Mother’s Day in 1998. It was a simple, straightforward yet heartfelt poem expressing her love and gratitude for Aunt Gerry’s influence on her life. Hearing those words and seeing my grandmother’s handwriting for the first time in ages brought me a sense of relief. Amid all the chaos, we had found a source of peace.

That little twinge of the fear of death had been relieved.

In short, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t worry about how my death is going to affect the world around me, or how the inevitable death of my family members will affect me. When that day comes, I will deal with the pain by finding solace in the memories that made them special to me in the first place.

In the end, it’s not about worldly possessions or hefty funeral bills. It’s about the memories. And that’s all that matters.

Rest in Peace, Aunt Gerry. You will be greatly missed.

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My Top Albums for 2011

I am one of those people who loves a good variety of music. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t limit myself to simply one genre, or listen to whatever I’m given on the radio. I like to explore, to poke around, to find a good mix of music that I can rely on regardless of my mood. So in the spirit of my eclectic music tastes, here is my (second annual!) list of my top albums of 2011…in no particular order.

#1: Florence + The Machine, Ceremonials

Why I like it: Okay, seriously, there has to be something wholly wrong with you if you don’t at least appreciate the ethereal sound of F+TM. I loved Between Two Lungs, but Ceremonials took me to a whole new state of mind while listening to this music. Florence’s polished, husky vocals paired with haunting and inspirational instrumentals never fails to make me cry at least once while listening to it. The best part is, it doesn’t matter what genre of music you generally listen to, Florence can find a way into your playlist. That’s how unique and versatile her music is.
Favorite song: When I first heard “Shake it Out,” I bawled. It was a song after my own heart, simply saying that everyone carries their own cross at one point or another, and that all you have to do is fight your way through your troubles, then “shake it out.” Amazing.

 

#2: Kelly Clarkson, Stronger

Why I like it: I am proud to say I’ve followed Kelly Clarkson from day one, back when American Idol actually made an impact on the music industry. I’ve seen Kelly grow from a little preppy pop star to a mature, creative woman who doesn’t let anyone tell her what to say or think. Stronger couldn’t be a more appropriate album for a growing artist like Kelly. She has her classic pop-rock sound, but then she throws in a few country-inspired tracks. While this was I was hoping for from Kelly’s new album, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid her vocals are.
Favorite Song: Do I have to choose? Okay, well, as far as ballads go, “Breaking Your Own Heart,” is perfect. It’s taking a topic few have addressed in music, and turning it into something amazing. And of course, “Dark Side” should really be her next single. You’ll have to listen for yourself:

#3: Natalia Kills, Perfectionist

Why I Like It: I got to see Natalia when she was just starting to get into the music scene. She was one of two opening acts for Robyn, before Maluca. From the start, I knew she would be successful as an artist due to her mainstream sound, not to mention being signed on to will.i.am’s record label. Her biggest selling point was that she was not only a musician, but also a filmmaker. Perfectionist is very mainstream in sound, but there’s a little extra edge to it that I really enjoy.
Favorite Song: “Love is a Suicide” follows that same idea of a mainstream pop sound, but it has an edge of masochism and desperation that, to me, makes it really stand out.

 And speaking of mainstream pop….
#4: Lady Gaga, Born This Way

No, the actual album cover does not have Paula Deen riding her.

 Why I like it:  Okay, I would first like to say I am commenting on the album. Aside from her vocals, I do not think Lady Gaga is all that great. She is not a “fashion icon” or a good dancer, and her music videos for this album were horrendous. The music on this album, however, is fan-freaking-tastic. If her intention was to introduce the darker side of electronic music into the mainstream world, she did it incredibly well (“Born This Way” being the exception).
Favorite Song:  “Fashion of His Love” is pretty amazing, only because its reminiscence of a classic 80’s Cyndi Lauper hit.

#5: Zola Jesus, Conatus

Why I like it: I’ll admit, I haven’t listened to this album a whole lot. My only reason is that it is so overwhelmingly incredible, that listening to it casually would only make me stop dead in my tracks and forget that I’m on this planet. Zola reminds me a lot of Florence, in that she has a deep, other-worldly voice that could easily open portals to other dimensions. Even as I’m listening to this album now, it’s very difficult for me to write because I…wait…what was I saying?
Favorite track: ……….where am I?

*changes album*

#6: Rihanna, Talk That Talk

 Why I like it: Every time Rihanna releases a new album, she puts the previous album to shame. I seriously can’t listen to “Pon de Replay” any more because it sounds like crap compared to the music on Talk That Talk. Even Rated R (which was on my list last year) and Loud still pale in comparison. The best part about this album is that it is a fine mix of sentiment and naughtiness.
Favorite song: Definitely a tie between “Cockiness (Love It)” and “Where Have You Been.” I love dance-worthy songs, and if I had a separate list of those, these would definitely be on it.

#7: Evanescence, Evanescence

Why I like it: Rock has finally re-entered my life in a big way! While some people take issue with a rock band with a piano, this is what makes this band so amazing! Even better, the band actually got along in the creation of this album, which really shows in the impactful percussion, unique use of guitar and, of course, Amy Lee’s soaring vocals.
Favorite song: As far as new sounds go, two thumbs up for “The Change.” But I cannot tear myself away from “Lost in Paradise.”

#8: Britney Spears, Femme Fatale

Why I like it: Because I love Britney Spears. Do I need any more of a reason? Okay, well this is certainly a step up from the hastily-produced Circus. And this is certainly the album that has gotten Britney back on the charts as a driving force in pop music. And the Femme Fatale tour only made me love the album even more!
Favorite Song: “Trouble for Me” has this fun Euro-pop sound that I love. And while I didn’t like “Criminal” all that much, the music video was so epic that it certainly jumped up on my favorite list!

#9: Avril Lavigne, Goodbye Lullaby

Why I like it: I only recently began to appreciate Avril for her talent in the past year or so. When Goodbye Lullaby came out, it solidified my love for her music. This adorable little guitar-wielding Canadian threw me for a loop with this album, especially with the release of “Alice” for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie. All I can say is, can you believe those vocals? Not only in the album, but also in her live performances, she has such perfect pitch yet with so much emotion in her voice at the same time.
Favorite Song:  If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a sucker for ballads. “Wish You Were Here” has made my list for that reason.

#10: Dev, The Night the Sun Came Up

Why I like it: I didn’t like Dev when she hit the airwaves. I thought she was just another mass-produced female artist with no talent that producers hand out to “rappers” to make a new hit song, then leave behind for another. But when my friend Eli told me to give The Night the Sun Came Up a chance, I’m glad I did. I don’t think Dev has a lot of talent as a singer, but I just love this album for its chill beats that I wouldn’t mind rolling down my windows and blasting (if I did that sort of thing).
Favorite song: “Breathe” is such a SEXY song!

 Honorable Mention: Iamamiwhoami

Okay, Jonna Lee. I check your YouTube Channel EVERY DAY for a new video. Every single day. It’s been nearly six months now, and all we’ve gotten this year is “John” and “Clump.” While amazing, we need more. Better yet, just get an album out there. The music combined with the intensity of the organic/synthetic imagery has to make this the best and most innovative music in a long time. Your fans need more!!! Please give us something soon!

Lots of love and adoration,

A huge fan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please leave your thoughts below! Do you think I missed something on this list?