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The original column, published on May 15th, 2019 can be found below
Do you remember? Do you recall? Do you remember? ‘Cause I remember it all.
So over now. It’s so over now. So over now. It’s so over now.
I’ve been thinking about grief a lot lately. Way more than I should, that’s for sure. A lot of it centered around death, but not in a way that I’m used to. So if you don’t want to read any thoughts on death right now, feel free to hop out here.
I’ve always been pretty good at compartmentalizing the “celebrate their lives rather than mourn their deaths” kind of grieving and often end up being the first one to crack some dumb joke and try to make people smile again. Not that I don’t get depressed about it, too, that’s just not where I really find my grief. Mine usually comes more from the realization that the end of someone’s story is some random, arbitrary jumping off point, and knowing that I’ll never be ready for it.
Rolling on the grass, some things never last
Just stay for a while, we could have a blast
How can I go on without you now?
How can I live without you when you have become my everything?
Maybe we’ll have an accident.
You are my everything. The song that I might sing
You are my everything
I was thinking a lot about this even before I picked up the final Cranberries album, In The End, but this record certainly drove it home for me.I’ve had a passing fondness for The Cranberries for a long time, but nothing deeper than remembering how good “Zombies” was in 1994. But right around the time this album came out, the podcast Song Exploder had an episode about the opening track, “All Over Now” and I immediately ran out and bought a copy. If you’re not up to date with The Cranberries, the singer, Dolores O’Riordan, passed away very unexpectedly last year, while they were still working on demos for In The End. After sitting on it for a while, the remaining band members decided to return to the studio with Dolores’ vocal demos and finish the record in her honor. I’m not sure how somber the original demos were, but the album’s a heartbreaking goodbye to Dolores, but with a healthy dose of optimistic self-reflection that really helped me sort through a lot of the grief I’d been focusing on lately.
Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older and a lot of the older artists I grew up following are starting to pass away more frequently. Maybe I’m just melodramatic and looking for an escape from all of my anger at the world. There’s a lot of reasons I’ve fallen into this cycle lately, but I’d like to focus on some of the more trivial ones, especially since I don’t really feel that it’s my place to project and discuss other peoples’ losses or grief. Recently, my favorite comic book character was killed off in a pretty… I’ll say problematic way. But I realized that I was way more angry about the way the book discussed and further stigmatized trauma and mental illness than about the fanboy complaints I had and it didn’t affect me in any of the ways I expected it to. After thinking on it for a while, I started to really re-evaluate how I viewed death, both as a narrative device and then in my own life. Because real death, unlike in fiction, is so random, I think we too often put too much weight on it. It’s just a moment, same as any other moment, in a person’s story and I don’t think it’s fair to belittle all the other moments that made up their lives, just to focus on the one where they weren’t any longer. By putting all of our sadness and focus on that single moment, it reduces an entire person to one thing. A monolith of regrets, unexperiences, wasted potential, emptiness. And I hate that. No matter who it was, I can guarantee they were way more than that. A story’s end only stays with us when the story was good enough to get us there. Recently, while in a discussion with a friend, I asked “Have you ever watched someone die? Because I have, and it really fucking sucks.” But the better question will always be “Could you tell me more about them?” I’d really like to hear about that instead. “I’m sorry for your loss” focuses on the hole that’s left, not what used to fill it. In The End, ironically enough, perfectly captures the love and joy that has to happen before you get the sadness that comes with saying goodbye.
It’s easy enough to remind yourself of these platitudes from time to time, but that’s not the entirety of it. What about the people that get left behind? The stories that don’t end there? That’s really where my dread has been focused lately. All the things you regret, the experiences you don’t get to share, the plans left unrealized, the emptiness. And even when you didn’t know them personally, that option to learn all those things about them is forever closed off. Death, even from a distance, affects all of us so greatly.
Yesterday’s gone. Yesterday’s gone. And I’m open, I’m open
Tomorrow will come, tomorrow will come.
Am I dreaming, dreaming?
I’m sorry I left you. I’m sorry, I love you.
I felt so much pain there. I went insane there
There was another school shooting last week and I was inundated, as we all so often are, by interviews and images of the children that were there. Yet again, we didn’t take the basic steps to prevent this. So focused on the inevitability of it, those with the power to stop it continue to fail us time and time again. But this time, I saw kids who had “trained” for this or wouldn’t “go down without a fight” and I can’t stop thinking about how horrible that is. It’s one thing to talk of all the ways we can deal with death and it’s another thing to see what effect the constant reminder has had. There’s a difference between grief and trauma. How do we walk the line between being prepared for it and expecting it? How do we give it the gravity it deserves without over-representing its’ importance in the narrative? I don’t think we can. I think we’ll always be shocked and broken by it. We just need to learn how to help each other cope. We should try to remember that everyone’s carrying some grief around with them every day and if we have the opportunity to lend even the smallest amount of strength to help them when they need it, someone will be there to return it when we’re the ones in need. We need to be able to go back in and revisit the good parts without being buried underneath the heartbreak of it all.
Sometimes I wake up in a bedroom, Sometimes I just stare into space
How big is this place? How big is this place?
‘Cause I’m feeling the pressure. You know I feel under pressure
When I’m feeling the pressure
You make me feel so much better
It would have been easier for Noel, Mike, and Fergal to just retire the Cranberries. It would have been easier to not listen to the tapes of Dolores’ incredible demos over and over again as they crafted this record behind her memory. But I’m immensely grateful they did and I’m certainly better off for hearing them one last time. I think there’s a beauty in that strength in the face of loss that we can all take some inspiration from.