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Songs of Torment

This weblog will focus on my grieving process for a while, and I hope that it will help some people who are going through these things as well. Everyone grieves sometime, but not the same way. There is no "getting over it." Some of these will be short, some long.

Music has power. It can influence moods and even cause excitement (such as with rallying songs chosen as anthems). Some become a part of us while others have poor lyrics that were only effective because of the delivery and production. Songs can take us back to times in our lives, both good and bad. I'll hear a song now and remember how Charlene liked it. Some make me think of her even if she didn't know them.

She told me that she was playing mix CDs in her car that I had made her years ago. I had label and case insert-printing software, and had fun doing it. What is seen here may be the very first one I made for her. (The picture was taken in the lantern area of the Rondout Lighthouse, and it was quite a feat to get her up there.) I made a funny on the label: Her first two initials are C and J, so she is "seeing" a blue jay. This foreshadowed how blue jays would later become one of her favorite birds.

Type a little, stop and cry, see the teardrop spots on my shirt, type more... God help me. This is the least linear article I've written, putting things in different places and composing at different times and days.

While shopping one day, I heard an old favorite by the Moody Blues on the store music system, "I Know You're Out There Somewhere." It had the line, " eternal will not be denied." This goes way back to the early days of our love. I began to weep quietly and avoided making a spectacle of myself. The cashier may have noticed, though. 

Ever hear of ear worms? It's an informal name for songs that "get stuck in your head," and I have a big problem with those. Always have. While grieving, fragments and rewording come to mind. Most of what I have here are fragments taken horribly out of context and have no relation to the actual meanings of the songs.

"Crying in the Chapel" becomes "Crying in the Shower." Mourning hits at odd times. (My mind always wandered while showering, and I had brilliant ideas for articles that fled when I shut off the water.) Sometimes crying in the shower gets very bad.

A Christian rock band named Daniel Amos has a song called "Hound of Heaven" that has a line, "Does anybody care? And for Heaven's sake, take this aching away!" Nobody can fully understand or appreciate the pain of losing a spouse who is also the best friend unless they've gone through it themselves. It's often lonely, but there are people who care.

Not a big fan of R.E.M., but I kept hearing "Man in the Moon," a salute to Andy Kaufman. The singer is making remarks to Andy, "Andy, did you hear about this one?" For me, "Charlene, did you hear about this one?" There are things I want to say to my wife and best friend, share a joke or amazement at stupidity in the news, all sorts of things. I recently found the Mannix television show that began in the late 1960s, and I'm sure she would have liked watching it with me.

Something that really tormented me as an ear worm was "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro. I had an urge to read up on it between coming home from the hospital after my surgery and before the tragedy on September 13 (Charlene's actual death, not the official one on the 20th). Many people hate that song, it's a sappy tear-jerker that was a massive hit. It's about grieving for a lost spouse, and there are hints they had several years together. Charlene and I had almost 24 years.

This part was almost in my eulogy, and it's good that I left it out. It would not have gone well.

Honey planted a tree, which had grown over the years. It was "just a twig" when she planted it. "Then the first snow came, And she ran out to brush the snow away, So it wouldn't die. Came runnin' in all excited, Slipped and almost hurt herself, And I laughed till I cried." Well, I wouldn't laugh at something like that.

Charlene tried so hard to have things to be nice for me. When I was still hospitalized, I told her someone mentioned that I should get a shower chair, and it was waiting for me when I got home. Sometimes things were humorous in her efforts, like Honey slipping after brushing the snow off that tree. I take a shot of Bragg's apple cider vinegar in the morning, and had her pick up a bottle at a different store. It was not the same — sweet and hot. It was with honey and cayenne. She made a mistake, but I like the stuff.

Changing one word in the chorus: "And Charlene, I miss you, and I'm being good. And I'd love to be with you if only I could." I will be with her again.

At a family picnic, August 2003, again not wanting her picture taken

My most egregious ripping out of context is Brian May's "Too Much Love with Kill You." He's in love with two people and it cause him pain, and he knew it was his fault. Anyway, it starts in the first verse: "I'm just the pieces of the man I used to be, Too many bitter tears are raining down on me, I'm far away from home, And I've been facing this alone for much too long." Charlene has two family members here in New York who care about her and me. Other blood relatives don't give a rat's tail about her or me. My brother in Michigan calls me, he cares. I have a few friends, but not many.

This other part comes to mind: "It'll drain the power that's in you, Make you plead and scream and crawl, And the pain will make you crazy..." I'm gathering thoughts so I can write about that condition sometimes called Widow(er)'s Fog where we wonder if we are indeed losing our minds. Or if it will kill us. It has happened, people have died of broken hearts, but it's medically rare.

This article is just about the negative effects of music on me. As hinted at before, there are many songs that I can remember fondly with our good times together.

By the way, I refuse to stop saying love in the present tense. I love her and miss her, and we will be together in eternity along with Jesus and loved ones in Christ that we lost before.

We both liked Smokey and the Bandit. "Eastbound and Down" by Jerry Reid is the first song on that compilation CD I made for her.