“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” - Alphonse de Lamartine
Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved watching movies. I grew up watching all kinds of genres and they have influenced me in many ways. It is so powerful when all the scenes come together, when the characters and storylines unfold in more detail and you’re committed to the character.
The part that speaks to me the most is the original score. It has no lyrics, just instrumentation. The music does something powerful. The strings, the percussion, the brass and woodwinds all come together to create this deep emotion within me.
Music does something deep within us. It transcends culture and language across the board. It’s mathematical and creative. It moves people to take action and inspires us to love. It stirs us in a way that we can’t explain or control. It’s because it pierces our souls. Simple parts arranged harmoniously beckons us to go and create something in our lives.
Here's the thing though. Take any of the most well-known movies, remove the scores and something changes. The dynamic of the scene changes and it feels like something is lost.
In light of this, I've been thinking about my own life and how it’s been deeply affected by music. The power and beauty of a well-orchestrated song and how it moves you deeply.
On May 17, 2009, we welcomed our beautiful daughter Madison into this world. She was a beautiful baby with a head of hair and chubby cheeks. She was small, meek and had this little hum, almost as if she was singing a song. From birth, she had many developmental delays such as low muscle tone and some respiratory issues.
She's always been a very passive and content baby. At Christmas time, she would lay under the ornaments on the Christmas tree and stare at her reflection. She would smile and be intrigued by this other baby looking back at her.
Her development has always been behind in the areas of fine motor skills, mental development and speech. Her most common words are momma, dada and bye-bye. Like most parents, we were proud and wanted to show her off to anyone who would give us the time. Then one day, everything changed.
One day, I got a call from my wife Jessica saying that Madison was running a fever and that her temperature had raised drastically in the last hour. As I was clocking out at work, I got a frantic call from her saying that Madison had stopped breathing and she was convulsing. This had never happened before. I was terrified and jumped in my car and like a scene out of The Fast and the Furious, put the gas to the floor. I pulled into the apartment complex to my wife holding Madison’s lifeless body as the paramedics arrived.
After we talked to the doctors and ran some tests, we found out that she had a seizure and her brain scans showed some activity. This was very new and scary to us, but on top of it all, her words stopped. No more momma or dada, or bye-bye. All gone, in one moment.
This has been one of the hardest things to try to understand and make sense of. Her only words now as a 7-year-old is youthful babble and gibberish when she’s excited or knows someone is talking about her. She’s full of life and she’ll make it known, no matter what environment we’re in. She’s not a stranger or bashful by any means.
She’s been in speech therapy now since that day but words have yet to come and to be honest we don’t know if they ever will. After being diagnosed with autism a little over a year ago, some of the pieces make a little more sense but are still hard to deal with and even accept some days.
Here's the thing, in all selfishness, I want to hear her say, “I love you” and “Hi, daddy." To hear her and her brother tell stories and sing songs. To tell us how she’s feeling when she doesn’t feel well. All those things that you expect in life and take for granted.
Imagine not being able to express how you feel with words. Even in the simplest of ways, like talking to someone on the phone, telling the doctor why you don’t feel good and what hurts, or telling the ones you care about the most that you love them.
The other day, something occurred to me. What if she’s the soundtrack to my life? What if she’s the part of the movie that makes the scene better. The score playing in the background when someone is in need of love. To teach patience and perseverance through difficulties. To experience the awe and wonder that many of us lose.
I often take for granted my ability to speak and even say things I wish I could take back. Words are spoken every day and sometimes if we stop and really listen, we’d see that communication is much deeper than words.
Thoughts and ideas can be communicated without saying a single word and my daughter is a prime example of this. We can love others and show them forgiveness through our body language. When we step out and help those in need through serving them, when our lives become the notes in a grand symphony or a catchy pop song that gets stuck in the lives of others. It’s contagious and invigorating. The thing about a great melody is that it's memorable and timeless.
John Phillip Sousa said, “Remember always that the composer's pen is still mightier than the bow of the violinist; in you lie all the possibilities of the creation of beauty.”
Madison’s laugh and smile are contagious. Her affection to others is comforting and warming to the soul. Her wonder for life inspires hope that we can find the beauty in all of this mess of hurt and brokenness here on earth.
So, as you wake up in the morning and get out of bed, what story are you telling with your life. Does it inspire hope and speak deeper to the things we’re all longing for?
I believe there is a great composer that gave me the notes and instruments to create music. Each note comes to life and moves me to persevere, to live and love deeply.
When I see my daughter's beautiful face when she cuddles up next to me on my lap and I can hear her heartbeat, she gently plucks my heartstrings and plays a melody that sometimes only I can hear.
She may never say words or formulate sentences, but she’s composed something greater than any eloquent lyric could ever say.
It’s in these moments that my non-verbal, autistic daughter leaves me speechless and I stop to listen to her song.
"Music is all around us, all we have to do is listen." - August Rush
Chris Ross is a husband and father of 2 children. He and his wife have faced several challenges with both kids having different physical and developmental hurdles which has better informed them and created an awareness for understanding people better in day to day life.