Remember Death by Matthew McCullough, Free for CAPC Members
Matthew McCullough suggests that death awareness allows us to find joy in the problems of this world.
When Philip and Lia LaRue asked “does anybody know how to keep love close” on their first album Songs About Us, the husband and wife duo already knew the answer: hard work. With melancholy tones and haunting lyrics, the whole album echoed that hard work. Songs About Us is all about fighting for a marriage. Their sophomore release, All That We Once Were, reveals the beautiful result of fighting for love: a marriage enjoyed.
This is a mature love story that moves beyond the infantile puppy-love and honeymoon phases and instead values the daily commitments that often wear us down. Songs About Us is the soundtrack to some hard years in the LaRue marriage. After the birth of the couple’s two children, Lia began a long journey through postpartum depression—a journey that shook their marriage. The songs from this first album express the ache of that rocky relationship: “How does an ocean become two rivers…how does one suddenly become two” (“Does Anybody Know”). But the strains and trials matured their love. Marriage, after all, isn’t about the sentimental and happily-ever-after endings that pop culture celebrates. Marriage is about choosing to love in spite of the perpetual temptation to bail on a difficult relationship. If the LaRue marriage sometimes felt like “Running Up Hill,” the couple didn’t stop moving forward. “This is the part where we fall apart, where most count their losses,” they sing, but such won’t characterize their relationship. “I know we’ll make it, nothing will break it.”
The melancholy tones of that first album are coupled at times with bold and hopeful declarations, not rooted in the sentimentality of love and emotion, but rather a hope built on the foundation of commitment, daily renewal, and the resolve to fight for a love worth saving. If Songs About Us tells the first part of this story, then the duo’s second release, All that We Once Were, celebrates the results of that fight. The LaRues fought to preserve their marriage and thus reaped a wealth of joy and excitement in each other.
All That We Once Were is bright and exuberant. It is full of dance and laughter, celebrating the couple’s hard work by relishing in their intoxicating romance. They are drunk on love. Whether dancing to a mariachi band playing songs they’ve never heard, or cracking open a bottle of pink champagne, the album is full of the LaRues’ celebration.
Your tequila eyes, they are drawing me in. So, give me one more sip of your kiss. Give me one sip of your lips. Cause I’ve never ever felt like this. (“Tequila Eyes”)
Your lips draw me closer, let’s not say a thing. I just want to show you, what you mean to me. Take me in, till I am lost and found in you. (“Lost and Found”)
They have gone from singing about a love that seems lost, and long ago—”how do you and me keep this burning when the whole world has gone crazy, how do you and I keep the spark alive…tell me we can get back to remember when” (“Remember When”)—to believing that “the best is yet to come” (“The Best Is Yet to Come”). It’s the reward of their hard work and dedication.
Us and Our Daughters’ two albums represent a long story. A story of romance, beauty, hardship, loss, rediscovery, and joy. It’s a mature love story that moves beyond the infantile puppy-love and honeymoon phases of a relationship and instead values the daily commitments that often wear us down. Falling in love is more about choosing to build relationships than it is about some magical experience. There is a strong element of decision and commitment involved in real love. This is a Biblical love.
The love described in the Bible is one of commitment, resolve, and self-sacrifice. God’s love for us is not grounded in our worthiness, for He continues to love and pursue us while we are utterly unconcerned or even at enmity with Him. The love of God is an otherworldly love, one not grounded in our love for Him but His steadfast commitment to us—ultimately displayed by His willingness to sacrifice Himself to restore a broken and seemingly lost relationship. Biblical love looks like the kind of commitment Us and Our Daughters sing about across their two complimentary albums.
All We Once Were stands as a welcome addition to the LaRue story. We should not misconstrue this kind of love as all hard work and no gain. The real beauty of their hard work is not merely that they stayed together, but that in staying together they resurrected a love once thought lost. Their hard work and commitment was an act of life-giving hope. That is after all the truth behind the Bible’s depiction of love: self-sacrifice for a grander and deeper joy. Fighting for a marriage enriches the experience of its joy. Philip and Lia LaRue know this truth personally; their music encourages us to discover it too.
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