Which of the five senses is the most powerful? 

For me, smell is a powerful trigger for memories. Open a can of PlayDoh, and with that first whiff of clay, I’m a five year old kindergartener again. A smell of the lantana flower, and I am transported back to the fence in my preschool schoolyard, gently picking up an inchworm from the lantana bush at my feet, mesmerized as only a four year old can be by his little green body, inching up and down my hand.

But for me, the strongest memories come with music. Music is always a shortcut to emotion. It bypasses the brain, and all those feelings you forgot you had or were trying to suppress. You might feel the same way. A certain song will transport you back to your high school prom night, or your college days, or listening to Frank Sinatra with your father.

For me, Vance Joy’s Riptide will forever be playing as our car crests the hill on Portola at sunset, driving home from water polo practice at Northwood High School, Dragon in the passenger seat smiling his beautiful smile. Me reaching over to touch his cheek, thinking about how much I love this boy.

Elvis’ “I can’t help falling in love with you” will always be Dragon as a baby. Me as a first-time mother. Exhausted but in awe of his little baby sweetness. Overcome with those new parent feelings and surprised by how much I could love another human being.

“Bist Du Bei Mir” will forever be Dragon and his trombone instructor, Mr. Giesler, practicing his solo. It will always be Dragon’s OCSA Audition — Dragon in his suit and bowtie, looking nervous but also, very handsome.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” will always be Dragon’s solo. Dragon rushing into the car after school his Freshman year, excited about the new songs he was learning, about the new bands he was discovering. “Hey mom,” he exclaimed, rushing into the car. “We learned about this new band today! Have you ever heard of this band called Queen???!”

And Ed Sheeran’s Photograph. Photograph. My brother Eddie sent me this song two days after Dragon was killed. I was sitting at the dining room table with my friend Carla at my side. Dragon and Justin had just been killed in that accident at our campsite. I was still in shock. But I was sitting at my computer, having to plan the funeral. Having to create a program. Having to share the news with his friends. Having to share the news with mine. Working to find photographs for a slideshow for the memorial to remember Justin and my son. Whenever I hear that song, I am transported back to those awful August days, already now five years go.

It is a beautiful song. It has lovely lyrics. I know because I have sung them. But when I hear the song now, all I hear is Ed Sheeran singing, over and over again, “Dragon is dead. Dragon is dead. Dragon is dead.”