I can’t stop listening to “Someone Like You” by Adele:
It’s not that I don’t know dozens of more appropriate songs, sad songs, memorial songs. I’m an opera singer: I can mourn in half a dozen languages.
But I can’t get to my emotions about my grandfather’s death two weeks ago straight on. I need to get at them sideways.
Singing “Lyubasha’s Madness Aria” might speak to feelings of self-betrayal that I didn’t say goodbye in person, “Che Faro Senza Euridice” my confusion at suddenly losing a strata of my world’s foundation, “When I Am Laid in Earth” at my fear that he will be forgotten. But none of them get to the great sadness, the conflicting feelings that he is lost to me and somewhere kinder.
And unlike any of the mourning songs, “Someone Like You” lets me be neurotic about his death. (ok, Lyubasha is neurotic but she’s also beautiful and decisive, neither of which could describe my feelings.)
Though it’s a love song, “Someone Like You” provides a path to mental health: beginning to see my lost loved one in other people. This is not replacing him, but honoring him by seeing his snarkiness, or genius, or faith in the people around me. Allowing others to remind me of him and help me through.
When Adele wails “I wish nothing but the best for you,” it lets me feel be hopeful he is happier while being miserable he is gone. When she belts “Never mind, I’ll find someone like you,” it lets me remember that that’s impossible. People are too complex to replace each other. Our lives aren’t puzzles where a piece might be forced into serve in another’s shape.
Our lives are weavings where our relationships form the warp, the structure that holds and moves around our choices, our weft. If a life ends and a warp-thread snaps, it still anchors the past pattern.
It cannot be filled. The gap must be respected. The weaver however must keep weaving, without the lost thread’s guidance or hinderance. But unless the weaver ties the snapped thread off, fixing its beginning and end, it might slip out of the finished piece, disappearing. The ritual of tying off a thread is vital to its influence being preserved.
This weekend’s memorial service is where I am tying my grandfather’s thread. My family and I will dig into who he was in our lives, tracing his long thread’s affects. And form some kind of collective vision of what our gaps will look like.
It will hurt; it does hurt. The ceremony will help me get an idea of how my proud, inspiring, aggressive, competitive, gleeful grandfather’s life’s thread structured others’ lives. That will help.
Because “For me, it isn’t over.”
I’ll be singing “Amazing Grace” during communion. Here’s what I hope I sound like:
Wade’s funeral will be held at Saint Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in San Francisco, at 3 pm on Sunday, 4 December 2011, reception to follow at the church. If you plan to attend the funeral, please arrive early to allow extra time for parking.
Memorial donations are requested instead of flowers, to: Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin Community Outreach: 2325 Union St., San Francisco, CA 94123. Phone: 415-921-3665 (checks made out to: “St.Mary’s Community Outreach” and include “Donation in Memory of Wade Dickinson” on the memo line), or to the charity of your choice.
“A wise old owl sat on an oak. The more he heard, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the better he heard. Why can’t we all be like that bird?”–Wade Dickinson, 1926 – 2011.