Nellie’s Aire

A tune I crafted for my Nana

Ellen Cannon Columbia Furlong was born on the 4th of July 1900 in Dublin, Ireland. She immigrated to Boston with her husband Alexander in the late 1920s, just in time for the Great Depression. My mother Agnes Joan Furlong was born to them on August 1, 1931.

Nana lived with me and my 5 younger siblings for the last decade of her life. She spoiled us and loved us and left us with many lasting memories of her humor and Irish roots.

One such memory I have is of her sitting at a piano, plinking out an obscure but mesmerizing tune from her days in Ireland. She didn’t see me, and no doubt thought she was alone as she wandered down her memory lane. There was real magic in the simple melody she was playing. It made me feel her heart in a way that only music can.

I witnessed Nana have a grand mal seizure in our living room when I was in my early teens. It was terrifying. My mother told me to run and get a wooden spoon. She used it to keep her from biting her tongue. She was diagnosed with epilepsy and placed on Depakote. She died of a nocturnal seizure and cerebral hemorrhage in her bed about ten years later in 1974.

In 1997 my mother died. I moved to Vermont a few months later. During my first year living in Stowe, I rented a garage apartment on a dead end road near Mt. Mansfield. I continued my experiments with Pro Tools on the Mac, a multi-track recording application that lets you build a piece of music one track at a time. I usually start with a drum track, add rhythm guitar, then bass, and then lead guitar, sometimes I will add a vocal. I always start with something like a seed and sometimes end up with a nice plant.

I named this one after my Nana. It has an upbeat, reflective vibe tinged with love and sadness and loss. It’s been 46 years since she passed away, and over 20 years since I recorded this, and I can still feel her in my heart.

I have always loved this song from the James Bond movie. “You only live twice, or so it seems. One life for yourself, and one for your dreams.”

I’ve heard that you die three times. The first time is when you take your last breath. The second time is when somebody says your name for the last time. The third time is when somebody thinks of you for the very last time.

Nellie is still going strong at 120 years…