Music is incredibly important to me. It's as close as I come to a religion. I use music to lift me when I'm sad, or to help me experience grief, or to connect to people, even if they're no longer here.
Up until about four years ago I'd never really experienced the death of anyone close to me, which is fairly amazing considering I'm old enough to have seen the Monkees t.v. show in it's original run. (Just wait...I really am going to connect these thoughts.) Starting in 2002 I experienced a string of deaths, starting with my best friend from high school. There has been at least one a year since then, and sometimes more. It's as if karma is paying me back for all those years of not having to deal with grief.
That first one, my friend from my high school years, hit me really hard. Scott came along at an interesting time in my life, and had I been the betting type I'd have bet we would have never hit it off. He was from a rich, close-knit family; I'm from the definition of dysfunctional, and would frequently wear borrowed clothes and go without eating. But for whatever reason we clicked immediately.
Our two favorite pastimes were pinball and driving while listening to music. We expanded each other's musical horizons; he was more the John Denver/easy pop type, and I was into rock and jazz. On our drives we would meander, listen to whatever, and solve all the world's problems as only teenagers can do. My home life was a mess. I truly believe Scott saved my life.
For a while we we were inseparable. I was with him on a double date when he first met the woman who would become his wife. I was the best man at his wedding. Then life, as it has a way of doing, intervened. We kept in sporadic touch, but never really got back together. I did go to his 30th birthday party, a huge bash every bit as embarrassing as a 30th should be. Oddly enough I never lost the feeling that he was my best friend.
Five years later he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. By that time he had two kids and a third on the way. He battled long and hard, getting a bone marrow transplant from his older sister.
I heard on New Years Eve, 2002 that he had died a few days earlier. I attended a memorial service that day, and the funeral New Years Day 2003. I got up and spoke at the memorial service, recounting our drives, talking, singing, and how he had pulled me through the toughest time of my life. I barely got through that speech, choking up badly at the end, then I went over and hugged his widow (a word that still pains me).
I remember very little of the service, but the few things I do remember I remember quite vividly. I remember they opened the service with a great song, and closed with another. They opened with the Byrds singing Turn! Turn! Turn! and closed the service with George Harrison's classic Here Comes The Sun.
I used music to help me get through the grief of his death. One of my favorite artists, Warren Zevon, had just released a CD called My Ride's Here. For a couple of weeks I would play two tracks off of that CD every day on the way to work - the title track, and I Have To Leave. Both are beautiful songs, and both helped me feel my grief rather than bottle it up. (In a twist of fate that would make me really pissed at my personal deity if I believed in such a critter, Warren Zevon notified us of his impending demise from cancer - mesothelioma - shortly after that.)
I haven't visited Scott at his grave for a while, life doing its intervening thing and all. But I've heard Turn! Turn! Turn! twice in the last three days, and I've been missing him. So today I paid a visit.
I didn't just want to say hi and leave, so I scrounged around, found a playing card (I'm a magician, sue me), wrote him a note, and left it in the planter with his latest spray of fresh flowers:
Hello old friend. Whenever I listen to music I hear your voice.