Going Home

Last Friday, my family and I hosted – at long last – an in-person service of thanksgiving for my mother, who passed away in late 2020 at the age of 92. Travel restrictions denied us the opportunity to gather sooner but this year’s Thanksgiving weekend seemed most appropriate. The service program included hymns, Bible readings, a biographical homily, and reflections from my four brothers and me. But it was another element – a solo of “Going Home” – which brought a flood of tears and took my breath away, all at once.

As if the singing of “How Great Thou Art” or the reading of Psalm 23 wasn’t moving enough, “Going Home” brought my emotions to an entirely new level.  Sure, the song’s lyrics speak beautifully – to the peaceful transition from a life well-lived to what lies beyond – but it was the music that made my heart skip a beat.  “Going Home”, you see, borrows its instrumentals from the Largo movement of Antonin Dvorák’s “New World Symphony”.  And Dvorák’s symphony is one of my very favorite pieces of classical music.

I alluded to classical music when I spoke at my mother’s service.  I took piano lessons for several years as a child, and it was my mother who pushed me to practice when I would’ve much rather been playing outdoors.  It was my mother who faithfully attended my many recitals and competitions.  And it was my mother, as a result, who I credit for my lifelong love of classical music.

The New World Symphony’s (NWS) Largo movement is instantly recognizable to anyone who knows classical music (listen to the first two minutes above if you don’t believe me).  It may be the most beautiful solo ever written for the English horn; a short, meandering melody backed by soft strings.  I can’t think of a more appropriate instrument for the Largo, even though the English horn is an orchestra oddball with its distinctive wail.  Now layer the “Going Home” lyrics on top, as with the crystalline voice of Sissel Kyrkjebo above, and you wonder if music can get any better.

Following the English horn solo, the NWS Largo shifts to a minor chord passage which “evokes a nostalgic and desolate mood”, sometimes perceived as a funeral march.  But let’s be clear; my mother’s service was no funeral.  Rather, it was a blessed celebration attended by those who loved and admired her.  I think Dvorák knew this because the NWS Largo leaves the funeral march behind and concludes with another round of the peaceful English horn solo.  For me, this music brings a cleansing sigh, and a feeling of calm and content.  Just as my mother would want it to be.

I’ve saved the best for last here.  After my brothers and I finished our remembrances, my father spoke.  He said – to my utter amazement – my mother had effectively written her own service, picking the hymns, readings, and solos.  In other words, “Going Home” was no random choice; it was my mother’s preference.  Just as the New World Symphony Largo movement is my own preference.  Maybe she was aware of the connection?  Maybe not but it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is I’ll always remember her, especially when I hear the English horn.

I miss you, Mom.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

15 thoughts on “Going Home

  1. Sounds like a wonderful service and perfect music.

    Interestingly, the pastor of our church recent held a “Plan Your Memorial” class. The point of the class was to figure out what you’d like for your service, write it down and leave a copy with the church office. The real point is to leave something behind that removes one burden for a grieving family. My mother did this for our family and it was such an easy service to plan and do because I was able to just go up to the pastor and say, “Here’s what mother wanted, questions? Let’s do it.” Ended up being just the right service for her and our family.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fascinating your church went so far as to have a “class”, but I get it. Until I learned my mother made these preparations, I never would’ve thought of it for myself (even though I do have ideas). Anything that removes emotional burdens is fine by me. Guess I have a little “homework” now 🙂

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  2. Beautiful music, I’ve never heard the song, Going Home. I can see your mother liking this song. Music does give us a connection to people/memories. This was very special indeed. I remember your mother (and father) fondly too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was a poignant post Dave and I’m sorry for your loss. Even a year later, it does not get any easier. I lost my mom eleven years ago. I’m glad your mom instilled a love of music at an early age by your taking piano lessons and creating your lifelong love of classical music. I took accordion lessons for three years but when we moved here to the States there were no accordion instructors so alas, that instrument sits unloved in its case all these decades.

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  4. I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s passing Dave, but pleased that you were able to finally host a memorial service for her. I’ve never heard of the Going Home song either, but it’s lovely. Being able to plan your own service is something I think more people should do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PS. Now that I think about it, that might make an interesting blog topic – what songs would you like played at your funeral or memorial service, although I’m not sure my church would allow Cat Stevens “Oh, They’re Young” or Vera Lynn’s “We’ll meet again” or even “Danny Boy”, which would be my three top choices. On a more serious note, a friend of mine died recently, and due to COVID capacity restrictions, the service was “live-streamed” from the church. That was a new experience for me, watching a funeral online. You could tell the family had put a lot of thought into the selection of the hymns and the readings, and it showed.

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      1. “Going Home” seems like the perfect choice for a service like my mother’s but I agree with you on the breadth of music people would choose. My wife loves “On Eagle’s Wings”. “Danny Boy” would knock me over. I can’t get through that song w/o tears no matter when or where I hear it.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. My mother’s service was a long time coming but absolutely worth the wait to honor her. She was a remarkable woman, wife, and mother. I will never, ever forget her.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think our mothers passed about a year apart – mine right before Covid got rolling and yours after.

    The New World Symphony has been a favorite of mine for decades, and I own multiple versions of it. What a beautiful piece of music for the occasion.

    Liked by 1 person

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