"Jackie wants a black eye,
some proof that she's been hit
John wants the answers
but the questions just don't quit..."
Music may have saved my life, my marriage, my soul. Even in the darkest, bleakest hours of those first days with Silas suddenly gone, music pierced my impenetrable grief and keep something alive within. Beck's albums Sea Change and Mutations managed to capture my attention even when I could barely think.
"And we're sitting in the rain
and we're feeling like the weather.
You could say that we're alone
but we're lonely together..."
When the endless flow of tears finally drained me to dessication, music filled me up again, if only to help me cry some more. When I couldn't speak to anyone, couldn't listen to another word, couldn't feel anything but the black gaping chasm that used to be my heart, notes and chords and lyrics all-too-true wandered softly and impervious through that terrible void. Music was an inevitable truth, something completely outside of me that connected specifically to my pain. The music was a True Form that kept me tethered to reality.
"We're all in it together now
as we all fall apart
and we're swapping little pieces
Of our broken little hearts..."
Songs I had heard a million times suddenly became fraught with meanings I never suspected but were now powerfully, unbearably obvious. Give 3rd Planet by Modest Mouse a try and listen for the line "and baby come angels fly around you, reminding you we used to be three and not two..." and just try not to sob. Their other songs The View and One Chance are equally correct attempts to describe what we are all going through. I had no idea, not until Silas died. Then all of a sudden it was a like a code had been broken in my mind and all the secrets hidden in these songs were laid bare for me to soak up.
"Jackie's jumping in the quicksand
But it isn't what you think
she's safe cause she knows
the more fight the more you sink..."
It turns out that if anything has saved me from utter despair and pure insanity it has been music. Love & friends & food all play a big part in keeping me upright and pushing me forward, but music gets inside my soul in a way that is extremely personal and completely my own. I feel my brain speeding up as I speed down the highway with tunes blasting through the car. Music far too loud had their been a child with me, but just right for someone trying to learn how to be alive and broken all at the same time. Songs stitch me back together again. Songs take my holes and make me whole again.
"And we've been hurting so long
that our pleasure is our pain.
Are we madly in love?
Or madly insane?.."
Best of all are the live shows, though. Blasting music in the car or in the house is great, but nothing compares to a completely spectacular live performance. Lu and I found each other through music. Our first real kiss was at Madison Square Garden on New Years Eve during a Phish show in 2003. This year they played there again, and again we attended. The brutal and beautiful history we have shared between those two nights is hard to fathom, but it was perfectly clear to me that I am with the exactly right person. We had so much fun. How that's even possible when I think about how much pain we both still feel is a complexity of the human spirit that completely baffles me. But it is true. We had an incredible time. And they played just for us, as they always do. The song The Story of the Ghost is always about Silas. The first line: "I feel I've, never told you, the story of the ghost, that I once knew and spoke to, of whom I'd never boast, for this was my big secret..." And then the jam. The pure music portions of that song where there are no lyrics, just notes, it always takes me on a journey into the heart of my pain, and I always, always need it and love it and want it.
"Yesterday's love defines you
and today that love is gone.
Tomorrow keeps you guessing,
the roller coaster's rolling on..."
There must be multiple, endless Universes out there, each with a slightly different path, each with their own cosmic tune. The only way I stay sane is by entertaining the insane idea that there's another version of our family, one that is complete with a bright and beautiful little boy named Silas. Maybe a sister or brother on the way. Different numbers in our bank account. A home up the street or around the corner with a little more room, a little more light. And even crazier, since I know this to be true, is that the other version of me, he knows how close he came to all of this.
That helps me, somehow. It is as though I'm taking on all the pain and loss for all the other possibilities, sparing them this terrible ordeal. And those other possibilities, they are giving back to me a little bit of light and a little bit of hope that I have no reason to feel.
My reality cracked open the day Silas died and I have been diverging from my expected truths ever since. Music, though is a truth I can always hold on to. The notes and chords have become a scaffold I can hang my tattered soul on. Their rhythm replaces the beat of my heart when the pain is too great for it to pump another drop of blood. The lyrics tell me about my unbearable pain, but then trick me into moving, into action, into thoughts that maybe, just maybe I can bear his loss for one more day, if I just turn it up real fucking loud and belt out the words I don't yet quite believe.
"And we're all in this together now
as we all fall apart
and we're swapping little pieces
of our broken little hearts."
--Dr. Dog, Jackie Wants a Black Eye
What are your songs? How do they help you? What band or song or music has transformed for you since you lost your child?