May 11, 2008
Well, it’s Mother’s Day. In country music, though, it should probably be called Mama’s Day. At any rate, country music, like rap music, is fond of covering the topic of mothers.
As a daughter, my ultimate favorite song about mamas is Patty Loveless’ “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye.” In this song, we find a loving mother who supports her daughter through some of the most heartbreakingly challenging times in her life, the times when one is forced to say goodbye. First, the daughter must say goodbye to a childhood friend due to a move. Instead of minimizing her young daughter’s feelings of sadness and loss, the mother consoles her and asks, “How Can I help You to say Goodbye?” She assures her that it’s “Okay to hurt/it’s okay to cry.” Then she puts those all important verbs into her sentences by saying, “Come, let me hold you and I will try/How can I help you to say goodbye.”
When the same daughter is a grown adult, the first person she calls when her marriage dissolves is her mother, because past experience tells her that Mama will know how to help her begin to say goodbye to her failed marriage without judgment.
Finally, we come to the clincher. Mama, the one who has so expertly helped her daughter through all of her sad goodbyes is, now, saying goodbye. With her final words, she says: “Time will ease your pain/Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same/…How can I help you to say goodbye?/It’s OK to hurt, and it’s OK to cry/Come, let me hold you and I will try/How can I help you to say goodbye?”
When Patty Loveless recorded this song, she had to record it three times before she could sing it without beginning to cry. Nonetheless, the final recording still appropriately captures her deep emotions. After all of these years, this song still appeals to my emotions as well, which, to me, is a testament of a superb song.
So, there you have it…my favorite Mother’s Day song. What’s yours and why?