Rest in peace, my dear Nana

Yesterday, we said our final goodbyes to my grandmother.  She passed away early Thursday morning, just after midnight.  These last two days, with her visitation on Saturday and her funeral Sunday, have been very difficult.  As can be imagined, it is still difficult as I write this today.  It’s hard to fathom that my “Nana” is gone.  She endured so much in her lifetime, from cancer and declining health to the unimaginable loss that no parent should ever experience, the loss of a child.  However, through these struggles she continued to push ahead and lived for almost 88 years on this earth.

She grew up in the poor, rural South of the Great Depression.  Always frugal, never wasteful, her early years shaped how she would view the world for the rest of her life.  She had a deep, strong faith that powered her barely five-foot-tall frame.  What Nana may have lacked in stature she more than made up for with spunk, conviction, and an undeniable perseverance to keep moving forward, “taking one day at a time” as she would always say.

When I was an infant, Nana quit her job to take care of me in the day while my mom went back to work.  She helped raise me and mold me.  She taught me to respect my mother and would not be afraid to discipline her young grandson when he didn’t listen.  In other words, she helped me grow up.  When the difficult, but necessary, decision was made to move away, my Nana ensured she stayed in my life, to help guide me from afar.  Even when she instructed behaviors in me that she herself could not fulfil, she tried to steer me into becoming a man she could be proud of.  Of this task, I hope I succeeded.

My Nana was not perfect.  Like all of us, she possessed that uniquely human element of fallibility.  She did things she would later regret, hold grudges for far too long, and say things she shouldn’t have.  However, I didn’t love my Nana because she was perfect, I loved my Nana because she loved me, who was imperfect.  I cared deeply for her despite her faults because she cared deeply for me despite mine.  In the end, my love for my Nana wasn’t about perfection or purity, it was about a grandmother, who loved her grandson with all her heart.  A grandmother who would do anything she could to ensure her grandson felt loved and protected.  Of this task, I say confidently, Nana succeeded beautifully.

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Darius, Adele, and a plug for Mr. Rucker’s voice

This week Darius Rucker posted a video to his Facebook feed of his duet with Adele to commemorate her big night at the Grammys.  The song they performed together was a cover of “Need You Now” from the country group Lady Antebellum.  I wanted to share the video because, while I enjoyed the original song, it highlights just how talented Darius and Adele truly are. Their voices are so amazing and, in my opinion, are two of the best vocalists in music we’ve ever had.  Here’s the video:

I also wanted to put another plug in for Darius.  Not that I think any less of Adele, she is literally the greatest pure singer alive today, but I don’t feel Darius ever fully gets the credit he deserves for his vocal chops.  His voice is so unique and soulful that pretty much anything he sings will sound good…and if it happens to be a decent song, WOW!

As many of you know, Darius made it big as the lead singer for Hootie & The Blowfish.  Their first album, especially their first song “Hold My Hand“, was all over the radio.  In fact I believe that radio is ultimately what killed Hootie; they were played SO MUCH that it became impossible to get away from their music.  It led to a bit of a backlash.  Even I, a big Hootie fan, had to leave my cassette tape (yes, this makes me sound old) out of the car because there wasn’t a need for it…they’d be on three radio stations at a time.  However much they were played, the fact of how good they were – and more specifically how good Darius Rucker’s voice was – seemed to get lost as the 90s progressed.  It also didn’t help that their second album was really bad; poor songs, rushed work, just not good.  Their later albums were better, but by this point everyone had moved on.

Darius put out a solo album in 2002 titled “Back To Then” which is my favorite of all of his solo albums.  I loved it because it was an R&B album that was right in his wheelhouse.  One of the songs, “This Is My World“, was featured in the movie Shallow Hal starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow.  Unfortunately, the masses didn’t agree with me on this one.  I’m not sure if they were still in Hootie withdrawal or what, but it never got the airplay it deserved and has now become a footnote in his career – stamped between Hootie and his resurgence as a solo country artist.  In fact, my wife and I saw him in concert a couple years ago and he played his new country songs and old Hootie songs, but nothing off of this album.  Here is “This Is My World”, my favorite track off of his R&B album:

Now, Darius is a successful country singer.  He’s had several solid albums and, while I’m not a huge fan of much of today’s Country Music, Darius stands out because of that amazing, unique, and soulful voice.  Personally, I feel he is limited in the country genre because of the inherent cookie-cutter nature of the genre’s songs.  I’ve always said, if you got a good voice and don’t want to worry about writing your own music or lyrics, you’ll have a place in Nashville.  Apologies to die-hard country fans, but you can’t deny that the genre isn’t necessarily known for its cutting edge music originality…it’s known for its amazing voices/singers.  Don’t get me wrong, I like true country music, mostly older stuff…I’m just not a fan of the bro-country brand that monopolizes most of country radio today.  Which…ta da…brings me back to my point of Darius – his voice is so good, you can overlook the insane simplicity to many of his country songs.  So go on, treat yourself to some Darius today…and of course Adele as well…always Adele.

Signed, Mark Majors, self-proclaimed, music snob! 🙂

Sitting, in total darkness

Have you ever sat alone, in total darkness?  I mean true darkness, the complete absence of light.  I’m not speaking metaphorically here; I mean physical darkness.  Not the type where you are in bed with an alarm clock’s glare, a street lamp peaking through your window, or a small light on the ceiling from your fire detector.  I’m talking about a place where you don’t see anything.  A place where it doesn’t matter if your eyes are open or closed, you see the same thing…nothing.

I’ve tried this exercise a few times.  Some on purpose, some by accident.  While it is a relatively simple experience, it can be very humbling.  Think about it for a second, how often does this ever happen.  In today’s modern society, I doubt it happens to anyone with any regularity.  There is almost always an electronic device of some type nearby producing the faintest of light.  We also can’t discount that giant star at the center of our solar system, streaming light at us directly or using its nightly accomplice, the moon.  In fact, it’s such an abnormal place, you are consciously aware that something is different.  There is an instinct to look around and find the light, even a pull to navigate towards a glow.

When I sit alone in the dark, my thoughts rush forward and I loose track of time.  Being alone with your thoughts, without the distraction of light, can be therapeutic.  It can also feel a bit scary and discombobulating.  There is a confusion that unknowingly creeps in and a feeling of disconnect.  I am once again placed in a position of experiencing vastness through absence.  Understanding how small I am while realizing how much I am part of something infinitely larger than myself.

There is value by being alone, in darkness.  Even if that value is the understanding that you dislike the darkness and want to be in the light.  It is ok to experience the absence of something so that you gain a better understanding of your disdain for the absence.  There is also the opportunity to enjoy being disconnected and unencumbered by the light that surrounds us.  Whatever your experience may be when you encounter total darkness, I hope that it provides a moment of clarity.  A moment to experience likes and dislikes, thoughts and fears.  A moment where you realize this has nothing to do with sight and everything to do with your internal self.