There's always gonna be another mountain I'm always gonna wanna make it move Always gonna be an uphill battle Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose Ain't about how fast I get there Ain't about what's waiting on the other side It's the climb Miley Cyrus ‘The Climb’

A reflection on my mother passing away and the song that will always take me back to that moment in life.

My mother would have been 60 on Saturday if she had not past away in 2014. I knew the moment was coming. She had been told months before that she had cancer. Although there were ‘options’ for treatment, there were no promises. There never is I guess. However, there was a part of me that was somewhat in denial. I was thinking not her, not now. Not only did I have my own young family, but my brother and sister were still at school.

I remember receiving the call that my mother had been moved to the palliative care unit. No longer able to speak or move, she was in her last moments. Nothing prepared me for this, especially not Hollywood. We were told she could pass at any moment. However, hours past by and she was still holding on We were asked if we wanted to stay or come back in the morning. My sister and I decided to stay, while everyone else left.

After spending time brushing our mother’s hair and wetting her lips, we started reminicing. I asked my sister what she thought our mother’s favourite song was. Having left home years earlier, all I really knew was that it wasn’t any of my music. Although I had grown up listening to her Whitney Houston CDs, that seemed like a world away and I could not remember her listening to it since I was child. My sister said that she liked the track ‘The Climb’ from the Hannah Montana film, something they had watched together.

In a world before streaming (or at least I had not gotten into it), I purchased the track on iTunes. We played it on repeat and listened until my mother eventually took her last gasp and left this world.

One day a few months later, I was teaching. For some reason the audio of the iPad I was using with students glitched and started playing. Being prior to when everyone was gifted U2’s Songs of Innocence, it played the only song I had in my library, The Climb. I stood mortified, I nearly lost it. I quickly opened the iPad, stopped the track and composed myself. The issue was that at that time I did not feel like going into any detail with the students. Other than a few odd looks, I managed to avoid any questions and kept on teaching.

When I think about my ‘changing track’, there is a part of me wishes it were something hip and happening. However, like family, we do not always choose our tracks. The Climb will always be that track that takes me back to that moment when my life changed forever.

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Changing Tracks – A Song That Was Playing When My Life Changed Track by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

13 thoughts on “Changing Tracks – A Song That Was Playing When My Life Changed Track

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Aaron. I’m touched more that you and your sister had those last moments in your mom’s presence. Mine passed away alone, fallen to the floor with an unexpected heart attack. I can’t lose this horror that the woman who just gave and gave died alone.

    My song was “She’s a Rainbow” and had a similar but different moment:

    Here’s to the power of music. Peace.

    • Thank you for the reply Alan. Your well of memories about life and family was something of an inspiration to write this post. You just have a way of capturing the light:

      For the first time since I stood by her grave side, the tears came, driving that lonesome highway under the last blue tints of the Arizona sky. It is because the plan was that Mom was going to come out here next week for our usual Thanksgiving times here in Strawberry. We had spent the last 3 or 4 ones here, and it was these times we had really gotten so much more close.

      And this year… she won’t be here.

      Although my mother’s passing was not the Hollywood ending, I think I will appreciate that opportunity more as time passes.


  2. I’m listening to The Climb now as I write this.
    Thank you for sharing Aaron. Isn’t it amazing, and wonderful, that a song can stir so much emotion in us? I don’t have a track that I can recall a change moment with, but I have many songs that remind me of lost friends and loved ones. And now, as I get older, I’m reminded of the artists that are no longer with us. We just lost a Canadian icon here, Spirit of the West singer John Mann just passed away at age 57. I’d like to share one of their (whimsical) songs with you, I hope you find it enjoyable.
    (And one more because it is my favourite, and it gives me goosebumps:)

  3. Zeynep Tufekci reflects on dying and how many are currently being forced to say goodbye via video or not at all. Tracing death through history, she talks about the importance of the last words. This leads to her own experience of last conversation and its place within the grieving process. With so much being spent on saving other areas of society, such as bailing out airlines, when are they going to do something to allow people to properly say goodbye?
    Personally speaking, I found it hard enough watching my mother pass. However, I am not sure how I would have been without those opportunities and last words. It is an important issue, especially if a vaccine is not found.

    Also on:

  4. Kim Acquaviva’s honest account of death is in contrast to how it is often presented in popular culture. For me, the classic is Max Bloom’s death in The OC, where Sandy goes off to get a coffee and comes back to find him passed away on.
    One of the shocks when my mother passed away was when she stopped speaking. I did not realise that our last conversation was in fact our last conversation. It all seems somewhat logical now, but I certainly was not prepared. I think I was probably in denial until the end. I guess everything is easier in retrospect.
    “Jason Kottke “ in Documenting Death (10/30/2021 22:49:26)

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