The Only Song That Makes Me Cry, By Stuart Roberts, a man with emotion.
I’m not generally what you’d describe as an emotional guy. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, I more wrap my heart in the shirt, put it in a secure lead box, bury it five miles below the Earth’s surface and then kill everyone on the planet to stop them finding it. Wild exaggerations aside, if I whooped with excitement genuinely it would sound so sarcastic that it would spoil everyone else’s year. So I rarely do. I rarely get a lump in my throat either, let alone blub like a baby, so it was with great surprise that I found myself bawling crazily at a song, particularly one by Engelbert Humperdinck. The back story is sad, but my blubbing requires some sort of explanation.
On the 27th June 2010 my Grandma passed away, suffering to the end with lung and breast cancer, a hideous duo which left her, in her final few days, unable to move or breathe properly, let alone talk. I was at work when I received a Facebook message from my cousin telling me she was quite ill. I knew then it was serious, I was barely in touch with that side of the family (as proven by the fact I was Facebooked rather than called or texted.) I replied and, as it turned out, she was on her last legs (never really understood that phrase, I’ve only ever used the same legs.) She was my favourite Grandma when I was younger – strong, forthright, argumentative, liked a drink, called a spade a spade and eminently lovable – and I felt the desire, a need, in fact, to go and be with her. To say goodbye. She lived in Spain, I flew out the following day.
On arrival, I wasn’t really prepared for what I saw. The once sprightly woman I knew and loved – frail, yes, but with a glint in her eye always – was bed-ridden, weak and making the most ungodly noise I’d ever heard in my life. This gargling moan that reverberated around the apartment, piercing through the walls and into my head. It’s a noise I’ll never truly forget and if you’ve ever been with anyone suffering with lung cancer, you’ll know exactly the noise I mean. By the time I arrived she should have been dead. She held on for five more days, eventually dying peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her family.
We had spent that evening telling old family stories, stories I’ve never heard before – swinging, gangsters, confidence tricksters, my family seemed to have it all. Plus some wild embellishments from my Grandad, his speciality. We were tired; worn from the tears, the emotion and the fear of the unknown and it was this moment of tranquility that she chose to go. Strangely we were listening to some tacky Ibiza Chillout thing on the stereo which I would normally hate but seemed perfect at the time. She chilled out. She went.
Strangely, I would recommend this to anyone – being with a loved one at the end. Some people don’t want to be there, they’d rather remember them as a person – laughing, running, talking – but really, who are you to deny them this? It also brings reality and mortality to light in a way that nothing else does. I’m not saying I had a religious moment but seeing life depart a body is an experience to which nothing else comes close. And I’ve been on the Nemesis at Alton Towers. I licked an eyeball once and that texture is like nothing else on earth. Seeing death first hand is a similarly one-off experience.
Anyway, The Last Waltz by Engelbert Humperdinck was one of the two songs played at her funeral, the other being that Sarah Brightman monstrosity Time To Say Goodbye. No offence if any of your relatives have had this at their funeral (it’s massively popular) but, come on, it’s horrible. Goodbye is something you say to someone who’s just come round for dinner. It’s like the priest doing a sermon and saying; ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust,’ before adding, ‘laters.’
I was talking about my Grandma recently to my other half (girlfriend, not legs) and The Last Waltz came up. I hadn’t listened to it once since her funeral but one YouTube search and about 10 seconds later, a torrent of tears (of joy? Of sadness? I didn’t know) was streaming uncontrollably down my cheeks. Now, I love music, possible more than anything (sorry girlfriend) but I’d never had a moment like this before. The tune and the lyrics just have this charm and it’s hard not to imagine her as the girl, on her own, being asked to dance but eventually leaving alone. The ethereal guitar and the way his voice floats through the verses and the joyous crescendo of the chorus coupled with the strangely melancholy lyrics just struck a chord and revealed pieces of her personality I never knew. Even reading the lyrics now is making me well up. Ridiculous.
What I love about this though is that, hey, it turns out I’m not an emotionless husk of a human after all and that music (however cheesy or tacky it may seem to someone else) can mean so much to someone, catch you off guard, smack you round the face and pull your heart and mind into places that other art, in my opinion, just can’t come close to. Here’s the video but I won’t be watching it. More than one cry a year is over my quota.