The Pandemic Separated Her From Her Sick Mom. Nina Simone Helped Her Cope

Cara Robertson shares the song that helping her get through these times – Nina Simone’s cover of the 1970 hit O-o-h Child.


LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

You’ve been telling us about the songs that are getting you through this stressful time. For Cara Robertson (ph) of Santa Monica, Calif., it’s Nina Simone’s cover of the 1970 hit “O-o-h Child.”

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “O-O-H CHILD”)

NINA SIMONE: (Singing) Ooh, child, things are gonna get easier. Ooh, child, things’ll get brighter.

CARA ROBERTSON: I must admit that there are times when I think, well, this is – this 3 minutes or so is like a good – is a good amount of time to have a little crying jag in my car.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And for many reasons, including her mother’s health. She has metastatic ovarian cancer. It’s been hard.

ROBERTSON: She was in weekly chemo and then would often have another day where she’d get hydration via IV. Either my brother or I would be with her. And so I can’t say it was a good time, but it was a very supportive environment for her.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But when the pandemic hit, the hospital locked down, and Robertson’s mother had to take her treatment alone.

ROBERTSON: At the end of April, her doctor told her over the phone that the cancer had spread, and further chemo would be useless. And that was devastating. It would have been, you know, upsetting at any time. But I think under normal circumstances, that’s something he would have been able to talk to her about in person. And it’s a little bit alienating, and when – especially when you’re faced with a range of not very good choices. And I think that part of the healing that you get or part of the help you get from the doctor is just absent.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As Cara Robertson has helped her mother through these sad and scary months, Nina Simone has helped her.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “O-O-H CHILD”)

SIMONE: (Singing) Someday, we’ll get it together, and we’ll get it undone, someday when the world is much brighter. Someday, we’ll walk together in the beautiful sun, someday when the world is much lighter.

ROBERTSON: I listen to it every time I leave the house and find it, you know, just very soothing. The voice is really powerful, but it’s also full of sorrow. And I think the song, although quite simple, you know, contains a lot of wisdom.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “O-O-H CHILD”)

SIMONE: (Singing) Ooh, child, things are gonna get easier. Ooh, child, things’ll get brighter.

ROBERTSON: What I’ve been thinking about more recently is that although I had really taken comfort in the idea that things that things would be better, and that this will pass, you know, now I wonder if my mother will be, you know, with us when this pandemic is over. And I think the real medicine in the music, the most important part of the song now for me is the end, particularly the way that Nina Simone repeats right now – you know, a reminder that this is the time we have together, and it’s important to cherish it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Cara Robertson of Santa Monica, Calif., sharing the song that’s getting her through. And if you’d like to share a song that’s getting you through, send a note to thecallin@npr.org and tell us how it’s helping. That’s thecallin@npr.org.

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