You'll Have my Memory 

You’ll have my memory

(TW: for those with religious sensitivities)

I had a past life, at this writing, almost seventeen years ago, as a United Church minister. I did that for twenty years. After a major mental health crisis – another story for sure – either the god I half believed in left the building or I left the household of faith and went AWOL. The result was a new direction to an unknown destination.

I had played and sung much of what folks called Christian music. Immeasurable measures of treacly but nonetheless beloved warhorses, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “In the Garden”, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” and such like. There were the mindless and repetitive praise choruses, and songs hardly distinguishable from pop earmush where the word “Jesus” could be substituted by whatever intended romantic idol or unrequited lover existed in the mind of the singer.


Well-produced, predictably arranged, nice, innocent, beloved, manipulative, beige, and horrid drivel. Religious, white, musical shite. Taylor Swift meets Jesus Loves Me

<Cue Gollum’s voice: We hates it! We hates it forever!>

This is not to say that there isn’t some damn good lyrical hymnody out there, classical and contemporary. I have a special place in my heart for Poulenc’s Mass, and, paradoxically enough, a gospel song “Angel Band” by the Stanley Brothers. I first heard the latter one while watching the movie “O Brother, Where art Thou?” Anything by Palestrina and Byrd. And Bach oratorios. I recently sang in a choir performing Mozart’s Coronation Mass. A lovely piece but the music seemed to belong more in a comedic opera than a mass.

Call me a blasphemous snob. I don’t care. That and a quarter will get you ten minutes’ worth of parking in Collingwood.

I wrote “Memory” as an anti-gospel tune. Perhaps I should re-phrase that. I wrote it as a life-affirming reminder that all we have is life, no afters. Expecting an afterlife after we die is a waste of good terrestrial time. This life, this bag of bones and dreams, this time where we cry, love, screw up, and maybe reconcile is the whole meal, and that dinner lasts until we finally disband, disintegrate, and decay. Our only legacy is the memory others have of us.

I remember performing this song at a concert in London, Ontario. Afterward, a woman about my age came up to me. She said,

“My father died three months ago. I haven’t slept well, wondering, 'Where is he?’ It’s been hard. Your song answered so many questions. Thank you.”

That’s as good a summary of why I do this kind of thing.

In writing the song, I concluded that the concepts of God, Jesus, the Scriptures, and the doctrines of sin, forgiveness, and salvation were, in the end, unnecessary.

All we have is each other and the stories we tell. Presence and memory.

That is all that is needed.