I have something different for you this week. I want to tell you about a book for grown-ups that I have just finished reading. It’s called ‘A Song for Jenny’ and is written by Julie Nicholson. This book is a true story. It is about a young woman called Jenny Nicholson. She was killed when a bomb exploded on the London underground on 7th July 2005. The book ‘A Song for Jenny’ is written by her mother. It tells about how much she loved Jenny, how she found out about Jenny’s death, and how very very sad she was afterwards.
Now I don’t know about you, but the death of a young woman in such a horrible way is about the saddest thing I can imagine. It’s not just sad. It’s very very sad. It’s awful. It’s nasty. It’s …
I simply don’t have the words to describe this. I don’t have the words to say how horrible this is.
Now imagine you knew Jenny. Imagine you know her mother, Julie. What would you say to Julie? What would you have said to Julie when her daughter died?
I bet you wouldn’t have any idea what to say, or what you could have said. I know I don’t.
In ‘A Song for Jenny’, Julie writes about the sorts of things people said to her after her daughter died. On the whole nothing people said made any difference. She didn’t want them to say anything. She wanted to be left alone… but then when she was alone she felt lonely…
One day someone asked her, “What helps?”. What helps her feel better?
Julie replied, “Music and poetry”. She then went on to say that she didn’t know where she would be without these things. They gave her a way of working through the pain and sadness. And for her, music was especially important for healing.
Because of this, and because Jenny was a musician, much of ‘A Song for Jenny’ is about music. It might be music that Jenny used to sing, music that Jenny had on CD, music that Jenny’s mother listened to when thinking about her daughter… Or Jenny’s funeral itself. Jenny’s mother organised lots of music for the funeral. She put a lot of care into finding the right music—music that would speak about Jenny, and music that would speak about her awful death.
Throughout ‘A Song for Jenny’ I often heard the music in my head as I was reading about it. As I did so, I heard Julie’s pain.
And when I heard this pain, the tears streamed down my face.
What can I say now? There is nothing else to say in words. Instead I will finish off with music—an Irish folk song called ‘Down By the Sally Gardens’. This song appears in ‘A Song For Jenny’. It ends with the line “and now am full of tears”.
If this was any other page on this website I would put a video of the music. In fact I already have one of this song on the folk music page (this is also the version of the song that appears in ‘A Song for Jenny’). However I didn’t think a video was enough this time. I had to do something myself, something personal. I had to make my own music. So I a made a special recording of this song on my (new) keyboard. You can hear it by clicking the triangle play button below.
This is my song for Jenny.
- A Song For Jenny: A Mother’s Story of Love and Loss by Julie Nicholson. HarperCollins, London, 2010. The quotes about poetry and music come from page 272. The author talks about the song ‘Down By the Sally Gardens’ on pages 131–132.
- Down By the Sally Gardens. This is my own work. Please do not copy it without asking. I made it for Jenny.