Debbie Friedman’s music has always had a significant place in my life. Her friendly verses taught me the Aleph-Bet and prayers said in services. My mom used to play her music at night to help me fall asleep. Even as recently as this summer, I grabbed my Walkman (yes, they still exist) and sang along to one of her CDs in a nature preserve. Her music made me feel complete. But, since her death, I’ve felt a disconnect with her songs, that they don’t belong to me anymore. That’s why I was relieved when the local synagogue, Temple Sholom, decided to have a Friday night service in her honor last week. Perhaps, they could restore the music within me.
It was nice to come together with the Knox and Galesburg community to celebrate the life and work of a woman so influential and special. The young man and young woman who led the service were, I believe, a year or two younger than me, and I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job. She sang while he played along on the piano, switching occasionally to cello. It was a beautiful service, and it was really nice to be surrounded by Debbie’s music again. When the service came to an end, I left the synagogue feeling contented and yet, still a little bit sad.
From the service I went to the town jazz festival called the “Rootabaga Jazz Festival.” (Carl Sandburg was born and raised in Galesburg, so, it’s only appropriate that the subject in so many of his poems be present in modern town activities.) “Rootabaga Jazz Festival” was a complete change of pace from the Debbie Friedman service. The music was loud and boisterous and explosive, with brass instruments gleaming in the twinkle lights. I felt kind of guilty for leaving Debbie’s songs behind for blaring jazz music. But then, as I listened to “The Funky Butt Brass Band,” I imagined Debbie there, laughing and tapping along to the music. That little nod from the Debbie in my head helped me come to terms with her death. I guess just needed the affirmation that it was okay to sing her songs without her here. Both the service in her honor and the rowdy jazz festival helped me realize that as long as Debbie’s memory and music live on, she’ll never really be gone.