No one expects to have their child die. Michael Whitman certainly didn’t. After getting the phone call that Whitman’s son Breck had killed himself at the age of 23, Sydney Long immediately sat down at the piano and wrote a song for the young man. She performed it at his memorial service three weeks later.
Whitman was numb right after Breck died. When Long played “Breck’s Song” for him prior to the funeral, its power brought tears and emotional release. Five years later, in 1999, Whitman produced a CD of memorial songs titled Before Their Time. The CD included “Breck’s Song” and 13 other pieces of soothing music with themes of farewell and release.
Out of tragedy, a life purpose of helping to heal with music was born. Now in 2012, there are three volumes of Before Their Time songs and music. I’ve listened to the collection, and it’s all wonderful. My favorite tune is “Ashokan Farewell” by Jay Ungar, made famous in Ken Burns’ Civil War PBS series.
The artists on the CDs, too numerous to name, provided the rights for the songs free of charge. This project is designed to raise money and visibility for organizations that provide services to individuals and families going through end-of-life experiences. All net revenue from album sales goes to hospice and suicide prevention programs.
Dedicated to the memory of people who died young – from accidents, illness and disease, suicide, murder, SIDS or stillbirth, war, terrorism and other causes – it is intended to help survivors recover from the emotional trauma and extended grief that follows a premature death.
“I hope that listeners will discover a universality in the songs’ messages, and that these memorial songs, about the spirit of life as well as the poignancy of loss, will be remembered for their beauty even more than for the grief they express,” said Whitman.
This collection of memorial songs provides comfort to survivors after the death of someone close, and helps them heal. Before Their Time makes a unique condolence gift for someone you care about, or for yourself, and it will last far longer than flowers.