Healing Through Music

By  Camille Odom

unnamedDead? I sat on the loveseat staring into oblivion. How could the ever-smiling girl with a heart of gold be dead? How could the girl who took me to Chipotle for my first time ever, wanting to be the first to do it, be dead? Dead. The word was too heavy, and I could not deal with the weight of such a finite thing. I finally cried. Every ounce of my soul tried to cry the pain away. It was music, my medicine, that rescued me from the despair of losing a friend to a house fire.

Five years before Jasmine’s death, I first saw the power of music to soothe pain. I was ten years old and walked to center-court at a New York Liberty game ready to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” My vocals were accompanied only by a lone trumpet. It was just the microphone and me––and a full-capacity Madison Square Garden.

I looked into the crowd and saw thousands of flashing lights. The announcer said my name, the crowd cheered, and the music started. Ohh, say can you seeeeeeeeeee.

I wasn’t nervous while singing. In fact, my mother was more nervous than me. I saw her visibly shaking. “Someone get this woman a Valium,” I thought.

 

The song was going well, but then it was time for the high note. Considering I started two octaves above what I’d practiced, the note should’ve been a cause for concern, but it was too late to turn back now: And the land of the freeee. Whew. Flawless. The crowd went wild with cheers and whistles. The tension left my mom’s shoulders.

 

At ten years old, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of this monumental opportunity. The power of the moment was more about Mom. I will never forget how the music eased my mother’s anxiety. The melodious high note was the antidote to her worries.

 

I now see the lasting message in that moment: Music can be a doctor or patient’s best friend. While I love the natural sciences––after all, I am an aspiring physician––music and medicine are closely correlated in my worldview. The right song can improve a bad day. I plan on integrating music into my medical practice as much as possible. As a small child, I watched my baby brother get shots. His fear was embodied with discordant, gut-wrenching screams. Maybe if smooth jazz had acted as an anesthetic, it would’ve calmed his nerves, and he wouldn’t have been so terrified of the shot administered to help him.

 

Music carried me through that tough moment of waking up to both my parents staring at me. “We have something to tell you,” my mom said. Dread settled in my chest. “It’s about your friend, Jasmine.” Jasmine hadn’t come in that day, but no one thought much of it because she had gone to a Beyoncè concert the previous night.  

“Early this morning, Jasmine’s house caught fire. She and her two sisters were both on the top floor. I’m sorry Jasmine is dead.”

I didn’t want to do anything but stay crouched in the fetal position and cry my brains out. Eventually, I played Donnie McClurkin’s “Stand.” The triumphant tone, the strength in the singers’ voices, and the blaring of the instruments combated my defeated mood. The words of the song encompassed everything I was feeling: “And how can you smile when your heart has been broken and filled with pain? The song also gave me the best advice for that moment: “Don’t you dare give up through the storm. Stand through the rain, through the hurt. Yeah, through the pain. Don’t you bow, and don’t you bend. Don’t give up, no, don’t give in. Hold on. Just be strong. God will step in. And it won’t be long.”

 

Music was the only way I could pick up my spirits. Music eased my pain. Music was my medicine.

 

Camille Odom, a graduate of Saint Saviour High School, is a freshman at Spelman College.

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