My Grandpa Conroy hated pop music. I hate when I turn on the radio and they’re yelling at me, he used to say. He’d only listen to classical music in the car and he loved Placido Domingo.

Me being a teenager and VERY into current music, I never understood this about him. Yes, maybe heavy metal bands yelled, but it was the late 80s – no one was yelling. Yet. (He obviously didn’t like Nirvana, but then again, I didn’t really, either.)

My grandfather also had a beautiful, booming tenor which, whenever he came to church with us, inevitably drew attention. His voice both made me proud and (because I was a teenager) embarrassed.

My grandfather was my source of unconditional love, always he had a smile and a hug for me. Always he told me he loved me. He was my everything when I was a child.

And if I sit very still, even now, 21 years after he passed away, I can hear his voice.

My grandfather used to write me letters in college which included stamps. I’m not sure if it was his last letter to me or if it was just the last one I kept – but in that letter that spring, he talked about my cousin’s suicide the previous year, and he told me he was going to have a word with Amy when I get to heaven. (Don’t worry, I don’t have any plans on going there anytime soon!)

He died that month – less than a year after my cousin died. And when he passed, the part of me that was fanciful and wanted to believe in heaven liked to think he gave my cousin a real talking to. And the he probably hugged her, because my grandfather was Love.


Last fall, I discovered the Piano Guys and this video:

They played Amazing Grace at Amy’s funeral; I cannot listen to it without going back to that morning where I shivered in the back of the church, lightheaded from my fight with grief, begging God to make it not true, to bring Amy back, so I didn’t have to say goodbye that day.

This song: Fight Song, paired with Amazing Grace… this is my cousin’s song.

The moment I heard this, I wanted to badly to share it with my grandfather. Look, I wanted to say, You CAN make pop music beautiful!


I asked for the Piano Guys CD for Christmas instead, and my uncle – on my dad’s side – bought it for me. Fight Song/Amazing Grace isn’t on it, but Pictures at An Exhibition is.

There’s something about the music from Pictures at an Exhibition which is magical for me. It was one of the first pieces I played with an all state band in high school – my first experience being part of a group where we actually played real music, not just imitated the sounds we heard and cobbled together a couple bars that sounded like it was kinda sorta music.

To this day, it is one of my favorite pieces.

And every day, when I listen to it in my car, it feels like my grandfather’s in the car with me.

And a few days ago, Owen, bored of the fact that I play the same music over and over, Mom! asked me to turn on the radio.

I did – until I dropped him off. Then I switched it back to the CD.

Because it seemed like the people on the radio were yelling at me.

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