Female vocals weaved in and out between the sounds of fiddles, accordions, and harps. Gaelic and English words mixed together. The crowd sang along, seeming like they knew the song their whole lives. Then a little girl, who was singing as part of a guest children’s choir, began crying and ran off stage to her mother. Her freak out, as cringeworthy as it was, fit the theme of the concert. 

This was Songs of Separation, a concert performed by ten female vocalists. They sang songs that they composed during their time working together on the Isle of Eige. It was a beautiful, haunting concert and was truly evocative. 

Throughout the whole performance, I continuously reflected on separation. The first song hit me with full force. Pangs of sadness swept over me and I began to think of what separation means to me. Like the little girl feeling separation from her mother, I associated negative vibes with separation: sadness, feelings of incompleteness, nostalgia. I thought about many of my own experiences with separation: loves lost, the death of my grandfather, the passing of my stepmother Carla. All of these experiences were hard in their own ways, especially the death of Carla. She was like a second mother to me and died after a long battle with cancer. Her death was the most tragic experience of my life. What made it even more tragic was that my dad was separated from his soulmate. 

During the concert, I also reflected on my ancestors. Yes, I was in Scotland, but the Scots and the Irish share many similar cultural elements. I thought back to my relatives–McCormicks and Cavanaghs–who left their families in Ireland, knowing that they’d never see them again. That is true separation, at least in the way that I was thinking about it. 

Then, as the performance went on, my whole being lightened and I gained clarity about the other side of the proverbial coin of separation. To lose a person, place, or thing can be tragic, sometimes devastating. However, with adversity comes triumph. As cliche as that sounds, the reality is that separation can not only lighten, but strengthen someone. 

For all of the heartache I’ve felt after breakups, I’ve always come out a stronger, more independent and complete person. Additionally, I’m always able to wish positive thoughts about past lovers. They impacted me in many ways and although we separated, the breaks weren’t clean and I mean that in the best way possible. They left pieces of themselves with me, which I will carry forever. 

The deaths of my grandfather Charlie McCormick and my stepmother Carla Marino also plunged my life into despair; yet, without the passing of the two of them, my dad and I wouldn’t be as close as we are today. After Carla passed on, my dad searched for a new hobby to keep himself busy and settled on golf. I inherited Charlie’s golf clubs and we began our ascent from hackers into somewhat respectable golfers. Through great tragedies, my dad and I experienced a moment of serendipity and fell in love with golf. We continue to alternate between hacking it up and scratch golfing to this day. 

And I think this is what makes life so beautiful. We are only here on Earth for a short period of time. We know that one day, we will separate from everything. In between now and then, we will experience separation in many different variations. Rather than view separation as something solely painful, we might as well remember that after the pain often comes growth and strength. 

Peace and love. Cheers from Scotland!