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The Spectrum of Joy and Sorrow in a Song (Your Audio Selfie)

“The song ‘Lantern’ hit me precisely in the sternum, bored its way through bone and flesh, and took up permanent residence inside me. Later that year I think I called it one of my favorite songs of all time, and marveled it had been in my life less than a year.”

Jen Raffensperger wrote these powerful words in response to our query for the Your Audio Selfie project: “What’s your greatest musical moment?” During the recording, she shared her story about loss, grief, and searching for peace after her father passed away. It was these lyrics from Josh Ritter’s song that “gutted” her upon first listen:

The sky’s so cold and clear
The stars might stick you where you stand
And you’re only glad it’s dark
‘Cause you might see the master’s hand
You could cast around forever
And never find the peace you seek.

For the past five years, Jen has played this song over and over. Ritter’s lyrics, she said, helped her heal from a dark time in her life:

“It had been a really really rough winter. My father had died in September and then we had a historically snowy, snowmageddon winter here in Maryland that year. And I had been snowed in a lot, and by myself a lot, and just sort of feeling a lot like I was never going to be at peace.

One of the things I always get from music is articulation of things I can’t put into words maybe myself yet. My father died peacefully, I was there, but he was only 69 years old and it was the first really big loss of my life. And for someone else to have felt in such a way that would make them write lyrics that perfectly encapsulated what I was feeling at a completely different place at a completely different time, after a completely different experience, that resonates with me so much.

Everybody has gone through the pain that he talks about in the song. Even though you are alone right there at that time in it, you’re not actually alone in what the loss is doing to you or the grief is doing to you, or the burden that you’re bearing there.

The songwriter also brought a certain happiness to Jen with this biblical reference:

“Throw away those lamentations
We both know them all too well
If there’s a book of jubilations
We’ll have to write it for ourselves.”

And she ended with a lovely sentiment:

We get to create some of the joy in our own lives; we get to experience it with loved ones, with friends. For a four-minute song, it encapsulates for me just this huge spectrum of the joy and sorrow that come into our lives.”

Here’s your invitation: “What’s your greatest musical moment?” Last time I asked, we didn’t require you to leave your email address but that has been taken care of. So feel free to write in again if you didn’t get a response from me last time. Share your stories in the reflections section below. I’ll be on the lookout for your stories to be part of our Your Audio Selfie project.

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