Riding for the Feeling

Sometimes I play a stupid game with our iPod. I put it on shuffle and ask Matt to send me a song. I know it’s ridiculous. I know ‘shuffle’ is a piece of apple software – an algorithm – rather than the ghostly hand of my husband reaching out to send me a sign. I know in these moments I’m a mad woman clutching for evidence of something beyond death. But it’s surprising how often something meaningful comes up. Of course it does. It’s our iPod. It’s full of music and memories. What’s a little more strange is the raft of new albums Matt bought in June last year, just days before he died. He never mentioned them. Just downloaded them and left them there for me to find. This morning I played the iPod game and the track that arrived was Bill Callahan’s ‘Riding for the Feeling’ from the Apocalypse album. It’s one that Matt bought in his last download session. I hadn’t heard it before, but the first lines, as they came through the speakers, stopped me in my tracks:

It’s never easy to say goodbye To the faces So rarely do we see another one So close and so long

It’s a really beautiful song. As I listened, it made me think of many things. I saw my son’s joyful face as he flies along on his bicycle … my husband emerging from the waves after a surf or a swim, drenched and happy … and my daughter on a swing giggling, ‘Higher, Mummy, higher.’ All of them ‘riding for the feeling’. It also made me think about goodbyes, and how hard they are. There is an intense, bittersweet longing that comes now with a farewell. I say ‘I love you’ a little more frequently, a little more easily. And thinking about goodbyes, I was reminded of a piece of writing, “The Light that Shines When Things End”, featured on one of my favourite blogs. It starts with these words: ‘I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end.’ I like the idea of this light — of being able to consciously appreciate the final moments of something for the last time. But the thought of it also terrifies me. If it had shone on that last morning with Matt, I know I never would’ve been able to let him go.

Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go. All this leaving is never-ending.

This week is the one-year anniversary of Matt’s death. Anniversary feels an odd word to use in this context. His death date is one of pain. There is nothing to celebrate. We have endured a year without him. We are still here. Yet somehow it feels important to acknowledge the day. I plan to greet the sun at the ocean’s edge and will be hoping for clear skies that night so that the kids might look at the star named for their Dad (by a very thoughtful friend: thank you Vanessa) through the Observatory telescope. I hope we are able to ride the big feelings the day will bring us. I know we’re still learning how to say goodbye to a face we were lucky to see, so close and so long. And I suppose whether there there is a small golden light or not, it doesn’t really matter. Bill Callahan is right: when goodbye comes, it’s never easy.

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89 comments

  1. A year this week since my wife died too. I don’t know how to spend “the day” really. My daughter and my wife’s sisters are going to visit the beach where we laid her ashes, and then go for lunch. I don’t think I can do that. For me it’s not a day to commemorate, as such. I think I’ll go and prune grapevines at a friend’s property, and thus spend the day in contemplative (is that a word?) solitude. I suppose we all find our own way of dealing with such things. I know there’s no way it’s going to be a good day, whatever we do…

    1. If I might be so bold as to reply Steven, i think the sound of spending time in honest, almost mindless occupation seems like a good plan. Anything that you concentrate on, that gives you a few hours of distraction sounds like a good idea. Plus, i always think anything outdoors will help. Hope you get though ok. x

      1. A few hours of distraction – and outdoors. Exactly, Julia. Getting outdoors always makes me feel like part of a bigger picture. A very small part in a very big picture. I find that helpful. x

    2. Yes, I suppose we all just do what we have to, to get through, don’t we? In many ways, it’s just another day without them. But I can’t deny echoes of ‘this time last year’ are starting to wrap themselves around me. A strategy feels in order. Pruning vines sounds very therapeutic. I hope the day is as gentle with you as it possibly can be, Steven.

      1. Thank you Hannah. As I’ve said several times over the last year, you can’t rehearse these moments – you just have to wait and see how it unfolds, I think.

  2. Hannah, I’m going to track that song down and have a listen. I lost my soulmate over 25 years ago. I still see her and I still hear her voice singing along when ever I hear anything by Mary Black, The Tapestry Album which was our Sunday afternoon favourite as we snuggled on a couch listening to it playing on the tape deck watching the fire roar. Keep your memories and return to them. They will give you comfort and solace.

    Thank you for sharing

  3. Sending love your way Hannah. In many ways it is just one more day, but the portentousness of it is inescapable. I never escaped it. I have dinners to celebrate their lives on those days now, but for me 22 years have passed, and it took 10 for it all to stop feeling like a story that happened to other people.
    I love the gift of Matt’s music.
    Dani x

  4. Sending you love across the oceans … ❤

    "Heavy" by Mary Oliver

    That time
    I thought I could not
    go any closer to grief
    without dying

    I went closer,
    and I did not die.
    Surely God
    had his hand in this,

    as well as friends.
    Still, I was bent,
    and my laughter,
    as the poet said,

    was nowhere to be found.
    Then said my friend Daniel,
    (brave even among lions),
    “It’s not the weight you carry

    but how you carry it –
    books, bricks, grief –
    it’s all in the way
    you embrace it, balance it, carry it

    when you cannot, and would not,
    put it down.”
    So I went practicing.
    Have you noticed?

    Have you heard
    the laughter
    that comes, now and again,
    out of my startled mouth?

    How I linger
    to admire, admire, admire
    the things of this world
    that are kind, and maybe

    also troubled –
    roses in the wind,
    the sea geese on the steep waves,
    a love
    to which there is no reply?

    — “Heavy” by Mary Oliver from Thirst.

  5. Hannah, thank you for sharing. I lost someone 23 years ago and while life has gone on, I have never forgotten that awful pain. I feel for you & your children so much. Sending you lots of love and strength.

  6. Hannah, another beautifully touching post. Know that you and your precious kids are often in my thoughts. I can’t imagine how tough a day yesterday would have been. I lost my mum 18 years ago but even though she passed way too soon, losing our parents is something we expect to ultimately happen. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt because it does. But losing a partner so young, the doting father of your kids is beyond comprehension. Know that you have a whole community of people who are thinking of you all and holding you in our hearts. I know I didn’t actually know Matt but I know he would be so proud of you, your strength, your resilience, your loving care of your family during this devastating time. It was reading The Shadow Year that first drew me to your blog at that time and I feel so honoured to have been able to read your heartfelt posts over the past twelve months. The posts may have been a way for you to process everything that had happened but they were also ultimately a generous gift to anyone who had lost someone they loved. The lessons you have taught us via sharing your own experiences will be deeply treasured. Sending you love and hugs. Shell.x

    1. Thank you, Shell. That’s a lovely thing to say. I’ve wavered a little with this blog. I’ve written many posts I haven’t published. There’s a fine line between raw and personal, and ‘Poor Me’. I’m well aware that we all love … we all feel loss. I’m so sorry for you losing your Mum and the pain that brings. It’s nice to know that my writing has helped you a little. Thank you for that. Take care x

  7. Last week was two years since I had the knock on the door to tell me my husband was killed in an atv accident…your writing sums up so much of what I felt and am still feeling! A widow at the age of 30. I’m so sorry for your loss. But I know that since my husband’s accident I appreciate the small things so much and I’m sure you do too. I feel like the sky has never been so pretty, and that each one is a gift from my late husband. I completely believe they send us beautiful things to look at and experience 🙂

    1. Hi Cathy, I’m so sorry you had that knock on your door. Such horror. And I’m sorry my words resonate for you and your experience. I wish they didn’t. I’m glad you are finding beauty. I wish you peace and healing as you find your way. Thanks for commenting here. Take care of yourself xx

  8. Hannah, I wanted to write and say what a beautiful and moving description of something that we all have to face at some stage in our lives. In times of grief I hear the word “time” thrown around constantly like it’s an answer to all life problems. Time is so precious and we all get caught up in all the things that don’t matter at the end of the day like material possessions. Your words resonate deeply with me, but never has a saying been truer…….better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. The memory of loved ones lost never fades, the grief is diluted as time goes on and we allow ourselves to rejoice in the happy memories that put a smile on our face when we think about the special people we have lost. Your words are inspirational, I feel like I could talk to you for hours about grief, life and love.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Richard. That’s a beautiful thing to say. I am starting to smile again at the memories. I have a long way to go still, but it’s nice to be able to remember without the searing pain all the time. Thank you for your reassurances that the memories won’t fade. I’m sorry you understand grief so well.

  9. Beautifully written. Whilst most of us, sadly know the feeling of losing loved ones, you cannot ‘prepare’ for how you cope or reflect. By sharing your thoughts you have opened up and shown how your loss still hurts. I’m hoping that with the love of family and friends around you your darkest days are behind you.

  10. What a powerful piece of writing, really inspiring to read. I lost someone extremely close to me last year and it plays over in my head everyday. Music is always my release as I’m a singer. The guy I lost to alcohol was my duo partner…..music eases the pain of my loss. I hope you find your happiness and look to the future. wishing you all the best….keep writing 🙂

  11. What a wonderful gift music is. I’m glad it’s giving you some comfort. I used to play a similar game and post my answers to life’s questions answered by the iTunes shuffle. Some of the answers were just too uncanny. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I’m really sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing and taking the time to write this, so delicate, uplifting and sad. Best wishes, my brave friend xx

  13. this is really touching. I lost my father at a very young age. I don’t remember much but his favourite music and his favourite dishes aroma never fails to make me miss him.

  14. it is realy touching. I lost my father at a very young age so I don’t remember much but his favourite dish’s aroma and his favourite music never fail to remind me of him.It’s strange how that music and aroma are still there in my mind when i’ve a very little track of all other incidents .

  15. “It’s never easy to say goodbye.”
    “Riding for the feeling is the fastest way to reach the shore.” – meaning the quickest way to reach our true destiny is to work on the task as it pertains to the present instead of worrying excessively about the future. It is about dealing with the pros and cons in the moments we are in.
    It is about continuing on the path that brings us the most joy because of the happiness we experience by being true to ourselves because of the journey not because of the reward solely.

  16. Reblogged this on thefrcbayog and commented:
    One of my greatest fears is saying goodbye to my parents. I pray each day that they will be blessed with long lives. I want them to see me succeed in my endeavors in life that I shared them through the years. I want them to share with me reap the fruits of my hardwork. I love you Mom and Dad! I always will.

  17. So sorry for your loss. My girlfriend lost her husband suddenly 7 months ago, and what you’ve written sounds eerily familiar RE: what she is experiencing emotionally as well. She too, looks to the stars and the ocean is her reprieve. She hasn’t been able to quite say goodbye yet, and is in a deep depression. Hoping your days will find more clouds lifting. Beautiful song.

  18. I am sorry for your loss. I am grateful to have come across your post. I noticed it was done on June 30. This is the anniversary of my mothers unexpected death when I was in my 20’s. This song hits home for me in many ways. That loss and others that occur as part of life. Blessings.

  19. I have goosebumps. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to continue breathing when someone you love so much, dies. Music is one way of healing that pain, and even though we sometimes need to forget and do things that makes us feel better, we also need grief and the memories no matter how much it hurts.

  20. I lost my parents 4 months apart when I was 20 I use to feel so guilty if I didn’t feel sad on those days that were forever etched in our minds and hearts. It has been 17 years this year my mom has been gone. keep your memories as long as you can!

  21. I don’t know much about good-byes; actually bad-byes! And this is the very first blog I’m reading on this site. What most attracted me was the title, I perceived it as something extremely romantic and energetic but the moment you used the word ‘died’ my heart dropped to the lowest level. But still I couldn’t just stopped reading it. And strangely I found something what I always thought
    could only exist in the the movies- epic love story. Yours one is ‘cuz the way you make feelings alive and give them a chance to ride once again. Majority of us believe it’s good to forget past and move on, and it’s not a bad thing either, but what your blog made me realize is it’s good to let the good about past be still alive and credit it for what it was rather than forgetting it. Because few people are worth remembering till last breath.

  22. My mom is the angel master DJ to my jukebox for life. When I am seeking direction, comfort, or just a smile on a crappy day, I ask her to play me something. She always does. Even when I don’t ask her to. But hey, that’s what mom’s are for. They always seem to know what their kids need even when the kids don’t know it. Loved this read and became a follower just because of it. Thank you for the vulnerability in your sharing. Marianne

  23. Such an incredible read. Even though I can feel the pain and sorrow in this post, I can sense the effort of making every moment positive. Thank you for sharing this amazing experience. Embrace every moment you feel!

  24. Grief make you feel hollow and it’s just like yer walking around waiting for something. Ye don’t know for what. Just waiting. Oi lost so many in my life but the hardest and most painful was when oi 18 years old lost me girlfriend. She died after giving birth to our lass. Oi had never felt so alone in me life, lost, scared.
    The pain will go away eventually. The sorrows will fade but memories you always carrie wi ya.
    Take care
    /seb

  25. This touched me in a deeper way than I thought it would. I love that you play this Ipod game. It’s such a great way to keep the memory of your husband alive in your heart. May you and your family find light during this day of rememberance.

  26. What a powerful read. I know that seeing something from a loved one who is now gone can trigger powerful emotions in me too and music (and art in general) can only make it shine brighter. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Such a beautiful post.So sorry for you loss I hope being able to write posts like this helps on such a difficult time,grief Is such a difficult thing to speak about.Thank you for sharing your experience.

  28. Hannah, i don’t have any response really. Just know that you touched another grieving soul somewhere across the ocean.

  29. Thank you for sharing your heart, your grief. I agree, anniversary is a misfit of a word to describe a remembrance of a grief day. 20 years after losing my son, each anniversary is still a grief day. I love your iPod game – and yes, we as grieving women might madly clutch for things of life in those we loved, but that’s what makes us beautiful women – when we love, we love forever! Keep playing that iPod, keep clutching, keep looking for the stars, keep hope blooming in your heart. Sending love ❤

  30. Hannah, thank you for sharing this. I liked the idea of having a brighter light when someone we love is about to leave. My brother died 10 years ago in a motorcycle accident, he called me that night, I was busy at work, and when I saw the lost phone call, I thought, I will call him back tomorrow… He died that night. If only I knew that was going to be the last time I could speak to him. 😦 The bright light would come handy at that time. There is nothing I can tell you to help your heart, other than be strong. Hope I can give you a hug.

  31. I don’t know you personally but you are a great writer and I feel for your loss but your husband is still with you I can feel the presence of his love for you when I read this. Never let go of what you love. He may have passed but know he is far from gone. Life is everlasting if you look within. 😘

  32. When I lost my father on New Year’s Day I thought it would be hard to live through each of those days in the future yet on the third year anniversary , I have a problem with that word too, I didn’t even think about him until about seven or 8 o’clock that night because we were all having so much fun with the normal activities of a New Year’s Day. Time will heal the mind and heart.

  33. We cry on birth, grieve though life and cause grief when we finally depart. Let us assume human intellect is designed to create and digest grief in its finest form. Like a lot of other things in life this one also is a little paradox.

  34. I too look for ‘signs’ but I don’t get them, perhaps because i’m not open to them i’m not sure. I have an enormous sense that somehow if I do allow myself to feel a sign, that somehow it’s accepting that my little boy died. I’m so glad that you are able to interpret these moments in such comforting ways. I send you strength for the ‘anniversary’ we too are approaching our first without our little boy. Hugs xx

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