I said goodbye to another friend yesterday. He was only 60. We were brought together through his music and our connection was forged through grief.
We met 10 years ago at one of his concerts. His music was an immediate salve for the collateral damage inflicted on me from the impact of my wife’s recent cancer diagnosis. Maybe I was just in the right place at the right time, but I’m too old to believe in chance. The odds don’t add up. I’m just not that lucky. There had to be Providence involved.
Over the years, we only connected through shows I would attend. I always made it a point to say hi before or after the performance. I served his band several times in my restaurant when they toured through LIncoln during that 10 year run.
I was floored when I opened an email from him about three weeks ago, telling me that he had a terminal condition and that he was in the process of transitioning. For the uninitiated, that means dying. Those who are in near-death awareness have a different point of view than those of us with our feet still firmly planted on this side of the River. His was a thin place. He was at that point of discovering that the veil between the natural and the supernatural, the physical and the spiritual is very fine and scant.
He told me in the email that he found my writing about grief a source of encouragement and strength to him. I would find out later than he knew of his decline several months ago. That would account for his many responses to my blog posts. Often, the very first “like” was from him. It started to make sense.
This morning, a beautiful one I must add, I ponder the reciprocation of our friendship that started and ended because of grief. His music was there for me ten years ago, and my words were there for him ten years later.
I had the honor of officiating his memorial service yesterday, a small gathering of family and friends under the shade of hardwood trees in a small public park. Here is a segment from that eulogy that I wrote:
“The Heart knows three languages. First are words. For me, as a writer, words are all I have available to communicate. When I sat down this week to write these words, I had to think through and find the right ones to convey what Steve meant to me and to you. In the written word, there is no nonverbal cue to access or rely on. There is punctuation and an occasional exclamation mark, but this is terribly inadequate. In this way, words can fall short, and I understand and accept that limitation as a writer.
As many of us in this audience know so well, the second language of the Heart is music. Music is what words want to become when they grow up, but words grieve because music isn’t reliant on them to communicate the Heart’s message. Music has access to rhythm, melody and harmony as well as words to convey its ideas. Steve spoke to us directly and deeply on stage and in recordings without even having to say a word.
But there are times that even music has its limitations, and so the Heart needs to rely on its third language, the language of tears. Tears allow the Heart to express the feelings locked deep inside the hidden places, that even words and music don’t know how to deliver.
When you weep with those who weep, you are engaging in a supernatural tongue that says more than you will ever know or imagine.