All That I Can’t Leave Behind

(Posting this entry to enter into a contest on contest. I know some of my readers have heard this story before. Just hang tight!)

Though I had been a U2 fan since high school, my first concert was May 3, 2001 at the then Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. I almost didn’t go to the show, for less than a month earlier, on April 14th, my first husband, Mike, died at the age of 32. I’d bought the ticket with three other friends many months earlier. Like many of the other commitments I’d made prior to this major shock in my life, I tried to bail out from going to this show. Thankfully, my friends refused to let me back out. I don’t remember many details of 2001—I suffer a kind of grief-shock black-out from that year—but that U2 concert was one of the bright spots of happiness that stand out for me in that year  after Mike’s death.

We originally had bought the cheapest tickets, which gave us nosebleed seats in almost the very last row at the top of the arena. My friend, Kamill, however, knew one of the people who worked at the Gund, and he asked him if we could get our seats upgraded. His friend told us that he would see what he could do, that he’d come get us at our assigned seats if he could help us out. From our seats in the nosebleeds on the side of the arena completely opposite of the stage, we watched PJ Harvey jump around, a tiny dot on the stage, and we were depressed. We’d hear the music, sure. But we wouldn’t see much of the emotional delivery and showmanship for which U2 is known. The arena was filling up fast and it didn’t seem possible to us that any better seats would be available to us.

We were waiting impatiently after PJ Harvey’s set when Kamill’s friend appeared and motioned us to follow him. We got up, excited, following him down past all the rows of the upper level; down further into the lower level. And then down again into the last section before the floor. With each step, the details of the stage came into focus. I could see the crew and techs running about preparing the equipment for U2. I would have been happy if he had given us seats at any point on that lower level, but he just kept moving us closer and closer and closer. Until we were just left of the stage, in the second row from the floor of the arena. Right next to the stage on The Edge’s side.

Throughout the show, we were close enough to see every expression on The Edge, Bono, Adam, and Larry’s faces. I forgot about my pain and my sadness. My spirit was lifted up by the freedom of sound, of Bono’s warm voice and his passionate delivery of each song, particularly during “Walk On.” I know that this song was written for Aung San Suu Kyi; however, I’ve always felt the words spoke to my particular turmoil that year:

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong …

Walk on, walk on …
What you got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it

Those words reminded me that though my husband and I were separated by the darkness between life and death, the love we had felt for each other was something extraordinary, something we had that could never be taken away from me. From that moment on, the song became my anthem. It helped me to forgive my friends and family for not understanding what I was going through, to forgive all the people who had said thoughtless, insensitive things to me about grief and my husband’s death. Most importantly, it helped me to let go of my anger. To walk on.

Being at that U2 concert was better than any medicine I could have been prescribed for my grief. Being given the gift of the best seats I’d ever had at any concert, let alone my favorite band, U2, at that moment, was the answer to a prayer I’d never vocalized. For just one night in that very long year, I was the same girl I’d always been. It felt good to not be a widow for just a few hours. I’m forever grateful to U2 for helping me to fight off the darkness that threatened to engulf me that year.


Upgraded ticket.