“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.”
~ Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
I didn’t expect to be blogging about grief today. But grief snuck up on me last night and broadsided me. This morning I can still taste its bitter-sweetness.
It’s been weeks since I’ve thought of a girlfriend of mine. We’d been close since childhood. Kate was a performer, an artist, a free spirit. My dearest friend. She died suddenly, after an accident, back in 2010.
I’d thought that particular wound was healing over nicely. Mostly my memories have been happy ones lately, and the sting of her passing had faded to a dull ache.
And then last night a song ripped off the scab, and the wound was as fresh and raw as it ever was. Music. It’s always my undoing. It’s always my salvation.
I chanced to hear a late night song on the radio and suddenly we were young girls again in the 80’s, me and Kate, running amok in late-night Brisbane Streets, living in the craziness of share houses, experiencing all the pains and joys and revelations of growing up and growing older. Last night Hunters and Collectors ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ took me right back to a life I’m so far from now – squeezed up against the thumping speakers at a live performance at the Mansfield Tavern – Kate and I singing along to every word of this song with Mark Seymour as if it were our personal anthem.
We tumbled out of the pub afterwards, laughing because our ears were ringing so loud we couldn’t hear each other at all. Kate yelled at me “I so want to shag him”, her eyes bright with excitement and life, just as their van drove slowly past, windows down in the summertime heat. They tooted their horn in acknowledgement as they drove off and we almost died laughing.
I miss my friend. Sometimes I miss her so much it’s a visceral thing.
Is this what love is then? A healing and a hurting, and a healing and a hurting, over and over until your heart is all scarred up?
That’s okay, if that is how this process works. I’d rather a scar that I can feel than an empty place where the rain gets in and the wind blows cold.
One simple song and I was in a time machine, going back twenty years to a place as fresh and real for me as if it were just yesterday. Does music have the power to do that for you, too?
The night of Kate’s untimely death two years ago, another friend sent me a link to a song, Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt . What a gift. That song expressed for me all that I felt and couldn’t speak; Kate’s pain, my loss, my utter hopelessness and despair at having someone precious snatched away just as things were finally working out for them after a lifetime of disaster.
Music got me through. And it’s still my bridge to her. That’s a good thing. Something for which I’m forever grateful.
So this morning I’m raw, and full of feeling, life and love. This morning I’m giving thanks for all the musicians, artists, writers, risk takers and untamed spirits who make this planet richer with their art, and who express for us what’s in our hearts, in ways more eloquent than we alone might say.
Mr Cash, Kate Prentice, I honour you…
And Kitkat, this last song’s for you – cos I know how much you loved it. Every time I hear it, it makes me smile (AND think of the time Queensland won the Sheffield Shield!). Love you, my friend ♥ xx