The Soundtrack of My Grief

1. “Here Is The House” by Depeche Mode.

After Mike died, I lived in the house (condo) we shared together for an additional five months where memories haunted me at every turn. The condo seemed empty without him there, especially since it had been his home first before mine (and therefore was decorated as he left it). I spent a lot of time on the internet chatting on a yahoo group with other widows in the basement office–the only room in the house that was expressly me. I bought an old Depeche Mode CD–Black Celebration–basically on a whim, because I’d always loved Depeche Mode and I knew some of the songs off of it. I was immediately drawn to the song “Here Is The House” for its hauntingly reflective lyrics about the house in which two lovers have spent “those tender moments” of their lives. As I was living in a house filled with the ghosts of my former life, the song put me in a mood between melancholy in the remembrance of those times and despair over their loss. Sometimes when I’m out on a walk or riding my bike past that old condo, this song rises to the surface of my thoughts.

2. “Aenima” by Tool.

This song is about the destruction of California by several cataclysmic events–meteor crashes, earthquakes, tsunami. Very violent, very angry song with a very heavy rock (thrasher?) sound. Not my usual flavor of music. But I became obsessed with the song and its apocalyptic images. In a time when it felt like my whole world was falling apart, this song mirrored the storm raging within me. It gave me leave to scream. To shout the word “fuck” in sweet release without feeling vulgar since I was, you know, just repeating the lyrics to a song. I guess for me this is the purpose for angry music. I did buy two Tool CDs and I listened to them both pretty intensely for a time there. Now I never listen to them at all. But for a short while, they perfectly suited my frame of mind. At least they kept me from lashing out at the world.

3. “Wish You Were Here” by Incubus.

I think I first heard this song on a radio show on which Incubus were guests. It’s really a beautiful song from a harder rock band with a melody that sounds just as much as longing as the imagery of the words suggests. It’s not a sad song, really. The narrator describes the joy he/she experiences in vivid descriptions of standing on the beach. In that moment of happiness, the narrator realizes how much he/she misses someone. This song reminds me of the night in November of 2001 when I saw the Leonid meteor shower from my backyard and later while driving for a darker viewing location. My emotions were overtaken by the beauty of the Leonids–they were quite remarkably bright that year–and I could not help but think how much Mike would have enjoyed seeing them too. Even then, it seemed so odd to me that at the end of a horrific year–my personal loss, the national loss from 9/11–that the universe could still be so beautiful. It was almost as if the universe was telling me that it everything ultimately would be all right. Life goes on. Everything is as it is supposed to be.

4. “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” by Barenaked Ladies. (A cover of a song originally by Bruce Cockburn.)

It sounded kind of romantic to view my relationship with Mike–and its tragic end–as the story of star-crossed lovers. In fact, in the weeks following Mike’s death, I pondered all sorts of bizarre thoughts. My favorite was the idea that he and I were lovers in many past lives and that our love always ended tragically with one or the other of us dying, never to have a life fulfilled. It made me feel better to think that our story was some kind of predestined fate as it erased any guilt I might have had about his death, removed all of the “what-ifs,” for with destiny, no matter what we did, the result would always be the same. I even started writing a short story based on this idea, but I never finished it because I’m not really sure I bought the premise completely.

5. “Sail Away” by David Gray.

This is a beautiful ballad of loss that so eloquently described how I felt: “Crazy skies all wild above me now. / Winter howling at my face / And everything I held so dear / Disappeared without a trace.”

6. “Return To Me” by October Project.

I dated a guy briefly in November 2001. I guess you could call that my “rebound” relationship for it was doomed from the start because it was spurred by my loneliness and peer pressure from friends to “move on” before I was ready. I’m still friends with this guy so it’s all good, and one of the greatest gifts he gave me was introducing me to this short-lived band called October Project. The song “Return To Me” from their first album is, like David Gray’s “Sail Away,” a song of lost love that mourns in lyric and haunting melody. “I am here calling the wind / I am here calling your name / I am here calling you back / Return to me” – These were not unlike my own bargaining cries, mumbled mournfully in the early hours of the evening, praying to whatever power could bring Mike back.

7. “Walk On” by U2.

I’ve talked before about how “Walk On” was the firm hand pulling my head above water when I was drowning in the sea of my own despair. If you’ve not read it, see the sermon I delivered at my church or the little blurb I wrote on atu2.com. This song is very special to me. U2 can keep it in their live set list forever as far as I’m concerned. I recently discovered the “single edit” version which is even better than the version on All That You Can’t Leave Behind. This version opens with a piano, is less produced, and ends with a chorus of joyous “hallelujahs” that causes goosebumps to rise forcefully on my arms. As if this song didn’t do that to me already!

8. “Warm Tape” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I just really liked the tune of this song. I bought the CD during the end of the summer in 2002, before I got the opportunity to move to Colorado, and I wore it out playing this song over and over again throughout the fall. The idea of  moving to Colorado was on my mind a lot and I was waiting for the chance to fulfill my dream. So the song inspired within me the excitement of heading off into the unknown–of taking control of my life, doing something adventurous. I listened to this song every time I wanted to forget myself in my ambitious dreams.

9. “Stand Up, Sit Down” by Radiohead.

“Walk into the jaws of hell” and “You can wipe out any time” – For some reason, I always found comfort in singing those lines. A bit dramatic, I know. But, hey, Radiohead wrote the song, not me!

10. “Clocks” by Coldplay.

Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood To The Head was released in 2002 and I moved to Colorado in January 2003. This CD–particularly the song “Clocks”–became the soundtrack to my experience in Colorado as its songs had a lot of radio play that year, especially since the band was touring. Whenever I hear this song, I’m reminded of the wonder of living in Colorado, which was so foreign from the place in which I grew up. I think of hiking in the mountains, cycling to work, the Flat Irons over Boulder, the house I bought in my brief time there. I always felt that Colorado was home (even though I did move back to Ohio) and the ending lines resonated with me, making me always think of the mountains I love, “Home, home, where I wanted to go….”

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