Tunes for tragic times: Sad songs say so much

President Barack Obama leads a singing of "Amazing Grace" while delivering the eulogy at the funeral service for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
photo Members of the Treme Brass Band march in a jazz funeral for Lionel Ferbos, who was one of New Orleans' oldest traditional jazz musicians, in New Orleans, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. The city said good-bye to Ferbos with a … traditional second-line parade. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

About six years ago, I lost my uncle to colon cancer. Anyone who's experienced the death of a beloved family member knows the monster-bite wound that tears in your psyche.

Empathetic creatures that we aspire to be, however, humans don't always have to share a bond of blood with someone to feel the shock and pain of their passing. This kind of reflected sorrow can kick like a razor-hoofed mule, but ultimately, it reaffirms the kinship that unites us in a brotherhood that transcends race, creed or any of the other silly labels we use to pretend we're not fundamentally the same.