To all of you still visiting my blog I say thank you. Writing has been difficult for me lately. Grief doesn’t follow any specific path and I’m learning to lean into what is happening so that as my friend Tom tells me I can, “Feel what I’m feeling.”
I was fortunate to hear Sweet Honey in the Rock perform this past weekend. If they’re ever in your town make sure to see them. One of their songs put writing in my heart again. Your comments are welcomed and needed. Thanks
My morning started with the thought, “Why did they get to keep their sons and I didn’t.” I sat up straight in bed knowing that no more rest would come. All that day the, “Why them and not me,” feeling latched on invading most of my thoughts. I wanted Jordan. It was snowing out and I wanted to call him, hearing his sleepy voice as I described what home looked like in a blanket of snow.
“Are you warm enough? Are you wearing your heavy coat?”
“Yes Mom, I’m fine.”
That’s the conversation I wanted but there’s no number to call anymore. I stayed in my pajamas most of the day, which is such a rarity for me that my kids asked if I was sick. I told them, “No, I’m just looking at this snowy day and trying to feel cozy.” I knew later in the evening I’d get dressed because Mark and I were going to a concert but the day was spent wrapped in warmth wondering when the hurt of longing would lessen.
The night was icy and the snow had the crunch of cold. As we walked to the car bracing against the wind, Mark and I joked, “This better be the best concert we’ve ever been to.” Sweet Honey in the Rock was singing at a local college and I was excited to see them. Since college I’d missed going to their concerts for a variety of reasons but I was determined to hear them sing. They sing a mixture of folk, gospel, spirituals, jazz, blues and all of it with their voices as the only instruments. My college friend Melissa was the first to rave about their concerts. Everyone who saw them told me that you leave their concerts transformed.
As we settled into our seats a woman we’d met at the reception before the concert sat next to Mark. She was an administrator at the University and we talked at the variety of guests that came to perform. While making small talk she asked, “How many kids do you have?” Mark told her, “We have 4. Twin girls who are 11, a son who is 18 and our oldest boy was 19 when he was killed in a car accident.” I studied my program as he talked knowing the story by heart but still flinching when he said, “killed.” I briefly looked up and made eye contact with our row mate as her eyes offered condolences and then went back to the program. The lights dimmed and the concert began.
After a lively upbeat intro song called “Denko,” one of the singers introduced the song they were about to sing saying, “All of us have plans for what we want to happen after we die. Sometimes those plans are followed, sometimes they’re not.” She then went on to sing, “When I Die,” with the rest of the group repeating in perfect harmony the phrase, “When I Die,” as her, “music.” As the song started, Mark reached over and rested his hand on my knee. I could tell by his touch that he worried about the hard start to my day and if this was a song I could bear to hear. I squeezed his hand, closed my eyes and chose to be a part of the song.
Jordan’s voice was in my head as I sat up straighter swaying to the refrain, “When I Die, When I Die.”
“When I die, I want to be cremated.” That was Jordan’s desire expressed to Mark and me. We filed it away in the far recesses of our hearts because we didn’t think we’d need to carry them out. Gratitude filled me because we’d listened to Jordan and carried out his wishes. Then a perfect voice sang out, “When I die let my spirit breathe, let it soar like an eagle to the highest tree,” and I touched my throat as I imagined Jordan’s spirit soaring higher than it ever could on this earth. I opened my eyes briefly then quickly closed them back tight. I needed to experience this song without distraction. It meant hearing it and feeling it without worrying about what others around me were doing or how I looked to them.
“When I die, when I die,” the song continued and I thought of Jordan’s ashes and our need to spread them far and wide to signify the world traveler he would have been. I feel guilty that it is taking us so long to spread his ashes. It has been two years and we’re only starting to plan the journeys for Jordan’s ashes. The words to the song entered my body interrupting all guilty thoughts, “Well, well when I die you can cast me out into the ocean wide. Let my spirit cry, let it enter the tears that make the ocean deep and wide.” Eyes still closed I saw Mark and I standing on a beach releasing Jordan’s ashes into the sea saying goodbye and safe travels one last time. The tears started to fall and I did nothing to stop them. The song held a truth that freed me from one of my burdens. I whispered to myself, “What do you believe? What do you believe? Then the answer came, “Jordan is safe. You don’t have to worry about him anymore. Jordan is safe.”
I leaned back into the song and rocked as I heard the next refrain,
“Oh, oh, oh when I die, toss me out into the winds of time
Let my ashes roam, blow here blow there
I know I’m gonna find my true home”
Tears streamed down my face as the song washed over me. The truth was there begging to be accepted. “When I Die.” The when for Jordan was an answered question. There is nothing I can do about the when. I listened to voices covering and comforting me and asked my heart to accept that Jordan is safe. In the long nights when sleep won’t come and all I want is to have my boy home, I can take comfort if I choose to believe Jordan is safe. I don’t have to worry about him any more. Many questions linger but that one can be put to rest if I allow it.
The fact that he is gone and he’s here is settling in and slowly finding it’s rightful spot within me. I feel him in the bright red cardinal that perches outside my window, peering in looking straight at me as I call him Jordan by name. Jordan’s spirit is in the coincidences of his name appearing or being overheard when I miss him most. He is in the emails, texts and notes from his friends reaching out to me when I ache for him. A beautiful song opened a small part of my heart to that truth. My sorrow hasn’t evaporated and my heart is not burden free. But there is a feeling of relief akin to joy to be able to put one of my worries to rest. Jordan is safe. No more harm can come to him.
“When I die, let these bones take root, let the seed that been planted let ‘em come up bearing fruit”