Songs sometimes appear out of the sonic ether at just the right time. Songs that seem to chime with what is going on in your life and, well, act as a tower of strength for you. Songs that then stay with you for a lifetime. This is such a song for me.
To those who know me this may be quite surprising as The Mission are not a band that I’ve particularly kept up with over recent years. Indeed, I only really liked them for the time of the ‘Children’ album in the late 1980s. The album stands up quite well, having two cracking singles on it: ‘Beyond the Pale’, and ‘Tower of Strength’
To see why this has proved so enduring for me you really need to know what was going on in my life at the time. When I look back at my adult life there have been two key moments of massive change, both of which coincided with the death of my parents. The first of these was in 1988 when, within a year of her being diagnosed with cancer, my Mum died just a month after her sixtieth birthday.
For my 24 year old self this was obviously a seismic event, and one which I handled pretty well all things being considered (although the aftershocks were felt for years to come afterward). A key part of this was this song, which I played endlessly at the time.
Let’s just have a look at the lyrics:
You raise me up
When I’m on the floor
You see me through
When I’m lonely and scared
And I’m feeling true to the written word
And you’re true to me
And still I need more
It would tear me apart
To feel no one ever cared
You are a tower of strength to me
You stand firm and proud
When the wind blows in your face
And when the sun shines in your eyes
You just turn your head away
You are a tower of strength to me
You rescue me
You are my faith
And when there is darkness all around
You shine bright for me
Wow! Just reading that now brings back so many memories of me absolutely belting these words out in my bedroom as a way of soothing the raw pain of grief. They told me what my Mum meant to me, and also what I would miss with her absence. This was particularly the case as just two years earlier it was me who was bedridden, spending a month in hospital and a further four months in flat on my back following multiple spine operations. My Mum looked after me during that time with a wonderful balance of care and lightness of touch that provided the perfect atmosphere for my recovery.
I have no idea what the inspiration for Wayne Hussey’s lyrics are with this song, nor do I particularly care, because that’s his thing. What I can say is that I shall be forever grateful that he wrote them because while they remind me of the time that my Mum died… they also remind me of her and the sort of person that she was. She was a tower of strength to me, and in many ways still is… I still remember her everyday.
So as I think back to just before midnight on the 20th of July 1988, the time when Mum died, I remember that moment when it seemed that “darkness was all around”, but also the sun shining in her eyes. It seems like yesterday… it also seems like multiple lives ago.
That is because within months of her dying my life took a completely different turn as I went off to University as a ‘mature’ student, off to a totally different lifestyle and significant change of pace. It was almost like my Mum’s passing marked significant punctuation in my life. I stayed in academia for 24 years, ironically leaving just after my Dad died… but that’s for another day and another song.
For now I’ll just say:
Miss you Mum… for 31 years ago tomorrow!
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