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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Saddest Song

The saddest song I ever heard was sung by a little, blond haired girl named Jackie in my third grade class during Talent Day.  The teacher had asked us all to prepare a song, a story, a poem, or something we made and present it to the class.

I wrote a very short story about a dog getting lost and finding his way home (aka Lassie) and one of my friends planned to sing the song "Teenage Idol", recently made popular by Ricky Nelson.  When I asked him why he was singing that song, he said, "Because that's what I am.  Just a teenage idol."  I could not understand how an eight year old boy could be a teenage idol, but I let it rest.

The class spent several days preparing for the big event.  During that time I noticed that Jackie, who sat near me, was not at school.  She did not return to class until the day of the big talent show. Normally, Jackie was a ball of energy, talking and laughing.  But on that day, she sat with her head down on her arms.  The teacher would occasionally come by and pat her on the head, as if she knew why Jackie was so sad.

Finally I was able to ask her what was wrong.  "My daddy is leaving us," she said.  "He is moving away and leaving us."  And she started to cry.  

The talent show began; stories and poems, songs, and kites, pictures of kittens and trees floated in front of my eyes but I could not see them.  I had never known anyone whose dad or mom had left them.  I didn't even know such things could happen.  And then I saw Jackie stand up and walk to the front of the class, the teacher asking, "Are you sure you want to do this?," and Jackie shaking her head, "Yes."

And then she began to sing, without music, in the sweetest voice I had ever heard, the words of the song that I will never forget.

*"Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don't they know it's the end of the world?
If you don't love me anymore."

And I felt the hot, burning tears choking me and I put my head down, but I could still hear her voice.
"Why do the birds go on singing?
Why do the stars glow above?
Don't they know it's the end of the world?
It ended when I lost your love."

And I was lost in the thought that if her dad would leave, mine might leave too, and the tears burst out of me.  And then I heard the angry voices of my parents arguing in the middle of the night as I lay in the darkness of my room, listening.
"I wake up in the morning and I wonder.
Why everything is the same as it was.
And I can't understand,
No I can't understand why life goes on the way it does."

And still she sang, and the teacher's tears streaked down her face and she wiped them away with the back of her hand.
"Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don't they know it's the end of the world?
It ended when we said goodbye."

Jackie came back to her desk.  I could not look at her.  And I could not read the story that I had written.  Lassie would remain forever lost.
*Song- "The End of the World, written by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee, sung by Skeeter Davis

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