Back to the Pearl Jam concert for a minute. I just want to say this because it is totally corny and I laugh at myself to think of it, but it also displays how much I love the band. At that concert I had "a moment" like those crazy screaming Elvis girls in the 50's. I actually shed a tear when Eddie Vedder came on stage. Like, to see him and hear his live voice was over-the-top for me and I had to talk myself down a little to get control of myself. Later in the show I did get more overwhelmed when he sung "Given to Fly" (for those of you who know the song) because I always think of my friend Jennifer who died of cancer at age 26 when I hear that song. Ironically that song would later become pertinent to my own husband, who stood next to me holding my hand at this concert.
I could go into the meaning of Given to Fly for me but I will leave that out of this post. I know the intended meaning from the writer and I have always seen it in the light of death, losing a loved one. Afterall, it is what music means to us individually that is so moving.
I knew that Pearl Jam was releasing a new CD this fall, but honestly, I did not have any intentions of listening to it, much less buying it. I was in Target a couple of months ago when it first came out. I saw it displayed on my way in and just walked right past it. On my way out though, I was stuck staring at a huge display of new Pearl Jam cds as I waited in the checkout line. "Fine" I thought in my head, "I will look at you" and I picked up the case and turned it over. A few songs down in the song list on the back had a title that I could not take my eyes off.
"Just Breath"After Joe died I had to remind myself constantly and purposefully to take breaths. Most people do not know what that is like, and my genuine prayer for them is that they never know. If you do know what I mean, you may have suffered an incredibly traumatic, sudden and tragic loss as I have. Suddenly each breath is deliberate and purposeful. A healthy human body is brought down to basic bodily functions to survive each minute. I remember holding my breath, not even realizing it, because the thoughts and pain in my head were spiraling out of control. I remember for months after he died, as I reminded myself to take a deep breath, I would unintentionally let out a loud and long sigh. To this day my son associates that noise with the loss of his father. If I sigh for any reason, Luke will ask me out of nowhere "Are you thinking about daddy?". Ugh, that hurts to write, there is still so much pain.
"Fine!" the conversation in the checkout line went on in my head "I'll buy you." and I begrudgingly threw the cd on the counter with my other stuff, as if someone was making me do something I didn't want to do. "I don't actually have to listen to it if I don't want to" I thought, giving myself a way out.
Five minutes later I was ripping the plastic of the cd in my car. I popped it in and skipped ahead to Just Breath.
After one line of his voice and guitar, I sat somewhat stunned as a tear rolled down my cheek.
"Yes I understand that every life must end".....
Each line that came from his mouth made me cry more, until I was sobbing harder than I have in months. Obviously I was completely unsure of what this song would be like- fast, slow, hard, soft....and furthermore I had no idea that it would be about death, the exact subject that the title spoke volumes to me about. So to hear this beautiful, clear music dripping with words that were so meaninful to me felt overpowering. I imagined it was Joe's voice talking to me. Of course not all the words pertain to our situation. In the song, the person is still with the one he loves, and obviously I never had the luxury of having any last words with my husband. Still this song speaks to me down to the last line.
".............Meet you on the other side."
I have only listened to the song a handful of times and the cd has spent most of its time sitting on my desk. I remember the words though, and I've thought about them a million times. This song reminds me of how much Joe loved me (I have not forgotten how much I love him). And more importantly, for me, it reminds me that Joe was human.
Sometimes I get so pissed at him for things left unresolved. For things that I've found out or dealt with since his death that any normal, living couple would work out in the course of their marriage. And I get pissed that he is not here to be held accountable. For some reason people think that all forgiveness comes with death, but that is not true.....That somehow instantly every shortcoming is forgiven, and so now they can tell you anything that they couldn't tell you when he was alive. A widow knows different. A widow knows such confessions makes the pain worse, because now you have information that you would have taken up with him if he was alive; You still feel angry, yet you have nowhere to go with that anger. All of this is very unsettling.
I know my husband was a great man, a wonderful and loving husband and the kind of dad that any child would be lucky to have. I also know that he was not perfect and neither am I. Grief is a long, sometimes messy and ugly process. We have to grab pieces of help from wherever they come from, including songs that you thought you would never listen to.