If you’re cool and unconventional, you know about the TV series, M*A*S*H. It’s been called the “fifth-best written TV series ever and… the eighth-greatest show of all time.”
M*A*S*H was a dramatic comedy centred on a surgical unit during the Korean war. I watched the show mostly in re-runs during my teens. M*A*S*H would make me laugh out loud, challenge me, leave me weeping.
One of the regular characters on the show was Charles Emerson Winchester III. He was basically a snob who saw himself above most people but every so often the complexity of his character would be revealed in deeply moving situations.
In the series finale, some Chinese soldiers surrender to Winchester who discovers the soldiers are musicians who know how to play, somewhat poorly, one of his favourite musical recordings, Mozart, Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581. Winchester takes them under his wing, teaches them, and they form a bond.
As the finale concerns the end of the war, later in the episode, prisoners of war are exchanged and the musician soldiers are taken away. As the truck carrying them pulls away, the musicians play the Mozart piece for their new friend Charles Winchester. Shortly afterwards, the announcement comes that the war is over.
While everyone prepares to go home, new casualties arrive at the camp. Winchester is performing triage and discovers one of his musician friends among those who have been killed. He then learns that the truck the musicians were in was attacked and there were no survivors.
In a effort to console himself, he returns to his tent and begins to play the record of the Mozart piece but after a few moments he removes it from the player and smashes it. The music that once inspired and comforted and bridged the gap between people has become a source of pain and sadness; all the hurt and grief of war.
In no way would I compare my life to a literal war however, for the last several months, I journeyed with a young adult and it often felt like we were fighting a war. A war against her past, the trauma that she suffered, and its affects in the present. A war agains spiritual forces, a war against psychological abuse. Every new day, no matter how difficult, felt like a victory, a battle won. Along the way, she became a friend to my wife and I and then, like a daughter to us; we care for her like one of our own.
Music was a big part of the journey with our friend. We came to enjoy some new songs she introduced to us and we shared songs with her – if you can believe it, she didn’t know classics like “Lean On Me“! She grew up in a cultural wasteland but we loved and accepted her as she was. These shared songs became sources of inspiration, comfort, laughter and hope.
One particularly meaningful song was “Home” by Gabrielle Aplin. It was a favourite in my playlist. It gave me hope in the heat of the battle. As the three of us would drive down the road it would play and we would sing and there would be joy. Recently, our friend made the choice to cut us out of her life so she could return to the place she once described as toxic while saying, ‘How can I get better when I’m constantly being torn down?’ The reasons for her choice are complex and confusing. All we could say is that our hearts and prayers are with her; we hope that as she matures and becomes a real, independent, person, she will come to love herself and love others with the heart that God gives all of us.
On a long drive the other day, I put on my playlist and listened to “Home.” Like Winchester’s Mozart piece I realized it has become a source of pain instead of hope, grief instead of joy; a reminder of loss and our heartbreak for the struggle she is going through, a monument to the failure I feel on a daily basis. I had to delete it from my playlist; “Home” has become a broken record to me.
I still hope for a different tomorrow. Unlike a fictional show that was written and recorded long ago, the ending of this story is as yet, unwritten. I hope and pray our friend uses her tools, practices self-care, and cultivates resiliency and finds the healing she needs. I hope she allows God to love her into everything he created his beloved child to be. I hope one day she will be her own person and her dreams will come to pass. I hope that one day, when she has freedom, she will reconnect, and we will enjoy banana cream pudding, and laugh, and sing about Home once again.
Until that day, I’m leaving this broken record here.