All Saint’s Day, and the difference one song can make.

Today’s Mom post is about memories and grief and the power small triggers have on the lens of heart ache.

Last night I started a note about All Saint’s Day. The experience of celebrating the holiday has stuck with me. I wanted to record some of my thoughts about it last night, so I would remember what to tell Eliza about it this evening. It was a happy walk down memory lane. I went to bed with a smile on my face.

This morning I sat down at the keyboard, with a cup of coffee and some music playing in the background. I reread what I jotted down last night. It, again, was a happy trip down memory lane. Then David Bowie happened.

Recently I began associating the song Space Oddity by David Bowie with my Mom. It is a trigger now. It is amazing the difference one song can make.

1 November 2019. 12:17am.

Today is All Saint’s Day. When I lived in Grenada, down island in the Caribbean, All Saint’s Day was one of my favorite times of the year. It is a holiday celebrated by remembering the ancestors and loved ones who have passed.

Families honor the deceased in such a beautiful way. There is dancing, singing, splashing rum and water on the graves, saying prayers, telling stories, sharing laughs, and at the end of the evening they will light candles that they place atop the graves. The lighting of candles part is my favorite. It is beautiful to see, and even more so to feel. It is a sight that grabs you, washes over you, breathes a calm and awe into you, holds you there in that moment, gazing, entranced in the twinkling candle light, and then lingers in your memory forever with slight homesick nostalgia.

When I go back there, when I close my eyes, I get lost in the memory of candles that felt like stars twinkling in the Heavens. It feels like peace. It feels like home.

Tonight, we will walk outside and look at the stars. I’ll take a few moments to watch them twinkle, then close my eyes and remember what that looked like on warm Grenadian nights. Later I will light a candle in our home. It will be for Corky, and for all the other amazing Pela and Richardson and Horrocks and DeMarco relatives that haunt our photographs and stories and jokes and family lore. I will bring Grenada home.

1 November 2019, 11:50am.

Today is All Saint’s Day. It is one of my favorite holidays we don’t celebrate here in the US. I brought this appreciation of the holiday home from the Peace Corps. It is a holiday where families celebrate their ancestors and relative who have passed.

Today is All Saint’s Day and I am thinking about my Mom. She hasn’t passed, but we have been mourning her for nearly 10 years. Dementia has taken all the lives she could have lived.

I have been thinking about her so much over the last few weeks. It all started with a song.

A few weeks ago I got to visit her. It was a typical visit. We walked around the nursing center for a few laps. We watched a Mountaineer football game. I talked to her. Showed her pictures of the granddaughter she would adore. Facetimed with Matt and Eliza and Katie. I talked to her. She repeated a little, but for the most part she stared at me, with a piercing gaze for a few seconds, then looked away, disconnected.

On the drive back to my hotel I put on some music. It was a playlist I could just ignore, background music, as I replayed our visit in my head, taking mental notes of her behavior or engagement. Habitually, this time, driving home, is used to set her new benchmarks for cognitive drops. Mom’s new normals.

“She is just floating through space. Waiting for the end.”

My words startled me. I said them audibly and absent mindedly. Lost in quiet thought, hearing myself say it out loud, it stung. I meant it. I don’t know how long I have thought of her like this, but it was true. And then there was the song. I catch it midway through. Space Oddity.

“I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here, Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do”

Fuck you, David Bowie. I am already vulnerable, there is no need to twist the knife. But, I need this. I lean in, full tilt. I want to sing along but my mouth has gone dry.

“Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much she knows
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you…Here am I floating ’round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do”

I love this song. It is heroic. An astronaut braving the unknown. Charging into the future, for all of us. Taking with him the best intentions of humanity. Undeterred by risk, and moved by the beauty of space, as he drifts farther and farther away.

I hate this song. She is no longer heroic. We are navigating the unknown, awaiting for something worse than now. She is floating through space. Lost inside her head, farther and farther with each neural connection that dims. Taking with her so much lost potential. She is merely existing, drifting farther and farther away.

A few weeks ago it started with a visit and a song. I realize the mourning process and the sadness causes me to reach, finding new associations or outlets to assign to the dull ache in my heart, but the pain is mine. It is my pain to navigate, through all the outlets I want to assign.

In time I know I will be on the other side of this. It will hurt less, but not today.

Today is All Saint’s Day.  Today I heard a song and I thought about St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. May he comfort those who are drifting through space, and navigating the unknown.

3 comments on “All Saint’s Day, and the difference one song can make.

  1. Donna and Brad Nester says:

    Sending our love and prayers to you and your family.

  2. Sing-Sing says:

    Just checked in to see if you were still telling your story. Thinking of you guys and your wonderful, big-hearted hilarious mama.

  3. Dawn A. says:

    Thoughts and prayers to you all, Joey. I can relate so much to your post and what you have written is so true ❤

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