Wednesday, August 11, 2010


At the end of this past school year my oldest daughter was busily rehearsing for a duet she was going to sing with a friend at the school talent show. But at literally the last minute her friend’s mother pulled her daughter from the show and refused to let the girl participate. At first my daughter was devastated, and her teacher scratched the song from the program. But after a couple of days of unsuccessfully trying to change the mother’s mind, her teacher told Emma that if she wanted to do the song solo, she could certainly do so.

Now, if it had been me I would never have had the nerve to go through with it. But Emma, to my great surprise and happiness, agreed to go it alone. So on the evening of the performance, having never rehearsed the song on her own, Emma walked out on stage and knocked an a cappella rendition of the “River Lullaby,” from the Dreamworks animated movie The Prince of Egypt, right out the back doors of the auditorium.

In the movie, the late Ofra Haza plays the mother of Moses. She sings the song as she sends her son down the Nile River in a basket toward his life as a member of the ruling Egyptian class. But I never thought of Ofra Haza while I was videotaping my daughter singing. Instead I marveled at her poise, the clarity of her pitch, her ability to navigate such a relatively complicated melodic line, and the fragility of her tiny voice ringing out to that little auditorium packed with parents and kids who were surprisingly gracious and attentive, and I became overwhelmed with pride and tears.

But it was when she began singing the third verse that the song, in my mind, became something else, a lullaby she was singing to her older brother Charlie, a brother she knows and loves but will never meet. Though it was never intended as such, I cannot hear her plaintive little voice singing this song now without interpreting it as her own tribute to Charlie, her wish to honor him, to tell others about him, to see him and speak to him for the first time. Charlie would have been 13 years old today, and I know he would have taken care of her, just like she cares for his memory in this song.

Hush now, my baby
Be still, love, don’t cry
Sleep as you’re rocked by the stream
Sleep and remember
My last lullaby
So I’ll be with you when you dream

River, oh, river
Flow gently for me
Such precious cargo you bear
Do you know somewhere
He can be free
River, deliver him there

Brother, you’re safe now
And safe may you stay
For I have a prayer just for you
Grow, baby brother
Come back someday
Come and deliver us too



tlrhb said...

Yay, Emma! I was mesmerized.

sxia said...

And now I'm crying. Geez, Emma. :)

humdingercrazy said...

so sweet!!

Tony Dayoub said...

Standing ovation for Emma at the Dayoub household, a tip of the hat to the proud father, and a moment of silence honoring Emma's older brother, who is no doubt just as proud wherever he's listening.

Matthew said...

This is beautiful, Dennis. Thanks so much for posting it.

Much love,

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks for choking me right up Dennis - that's what I get for not checking in for quite awhile. A fine reminder why your blog is still one of the best.

And that was a lovely performance by your daughter.

Joe Thompson said...

Thank you for sharing. You have every reason to be a proud father. She's a brave kid.

Neil Fulwood said...

Dennis, you have every right to be proud of your daughter. That was a lovely performance. And a heartfelt post.

Bemis said...

Thanks for sharing this, Dennis. In addition to expanding my movie love, you often remind me what it means to be a dad. And happy birthday!