Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Remembrance’ Category

Sitting, Resting, Loving

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Folks, the above title is kind of odd, but I hope you will bear with me.

Over the past several months, I’ve been battling with some long-running illnesses. They don’t stop me from editing. They do get in the way of writing, whether this blog or any fiction. And I’ve been frustrated by a lot of things because of this.

I’ve had to rest a lot. And that got me to thinking. Did I want to keep living the life I’d been living, where I was lonely all the time, and just frustrated overall? Or did I want to try to see if I could find someone I liked to spend time with, online or off? (As Covid-19 is still around, and is still prevalent most especially in the U.S., online time is more important than ever. And long-distance doesn’t matter if you can’t do any short-distance dating anyway.)

Michael would never have wanted me to feel like he was the be-all, end-all, of my existence. He knew how important he was. He knew how much I loved him (and will continue to love him, come what may). But  he’d have not wanted me to be alone for sixteen long years.

That wasn’t what Michael was about.

Michael was about joy. Shared sacrifice. Enjoyment of each other’s quirks and follies. Appreciation of who we were, good and bad. And so many other things, I can’t possibly list them all.

In short, Michael cast a very, very long shadow. And for years, I didn’t think I had enough room in my heart to share it with anyone else, knowing I would love Michael until the end of time (and then some).

Then came Jeff Wilson, my very good friend. I cared about him a lot, and talked about everything with him. But he died suddenly in 2011, just three short days after he said, plaintively, “Can we please proceed to the dating phase now?”

And I was devastated.

Jeff was a good man, someone I believed Michael would’ve liked. We laughed together, sometimes cried together (or at least I cried; him being a Confucian, he’d not admit to such frailties), enjoyed each other’s online company, and I was making plans to go see him in Colorado when he suddenly died.

I miss him to this day.

Fast forward to 2015.

A few years ago, I met someone I thought might be the guy. (I have talked a little about this, elliptically, over the years.) I was wrong. He wasn’t the right guy. But he did remind me that life is short, and that feeling something good for someone else was not wrong.

It didn’t work out. But it did get me to thinking.

Now, we’re up to 2020. And throughout all this time, one man stood beside me. He was the first person I called after Jeff died. He was the first person I called when I had to go into the hospital for heart issues. (Fortunately, they weren’t serious.) He was the first person I contacted when I was ready to talk about anything, and he was always there. It might take him a day or two to figure out what he was going to say, if I contacted him by e-mail…but he always, always answered.

And he was also there when Michael died. He was worried about me, and despite disliking the phone, called quite often in 2004 and 2005. (I also called him.)

He liked Michael. Respected Michael. And understood why I felt so terribly. He didn’t want to rush me. (He certainly knew about Jeff, too.) And until the past few months, had thought I was too far away on the one hand and not attainable on the other.

But Covid-19 changed everything.

We’ve been friends for twenty years, this man and I. But it still surprised me when, about a month and a half ago now, he said to me, “Can we try a virtual date?” (That is, listen to the same music, talk online, relax, play board games, etc.) And I said, “Sure!”

Our virtual date was a rousing success, so we didn’t stop there. We’ve continued to chat. We’ve even exchanged short video messages, and are trying to figure out what comes next. Because of him, I smile a lot more. I laugh a great deal. And while I am still tired, and still recovering from whatever Ye Olde Mystery Illness is, I feel much more optimistic despite all the vagaries of the outside world, and all the political messes, too.

Because of Covid-19, I can’t go see him anytime soon. But I do plan on finding a way to do just that, now.

What I’ve learned, over time, is this: Love matters. It may take time. It may not show up the same way every time. But when someone declares himself, and you have an honest connection together, it changes your life for the better.

The main difference between the last two people is this: the gentleman from 2015/2016 was more interested in helping himself than helping me. He didn’t see me as a priority and despite knowing me for quite a number of years never tried to visit me. He never told anyone about me, and he never admitted that I was anything other than a good friend if asked. Whereas this man, my 20-year friendship-turned-romance man, is as interested in helping me as he is helping himself. He does see me as a priority. He does want to visit, but Covid-19 won’t allow it. And his health right now is such that I’d be the one who must visit him in any event, though he still would rather come to me if he had his druthers because he knows this is going to be hard on me, finding a way to go to him.

Despite how it sounds, I’m grateful, in a weird way, for the gentleman from 2015/2016. He showed me that I was wrong about whether my heart could handle yet another love-interest. And that prepared me when, all unlooked for (at least by me), my very good friend stepped up and said, “I’m here. I care. Will you try with me?”

So yes. I am going to try. And I believe Michael would be very happy that I’m willing to do just that.

 

 

Peace and Remembrance

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Yesterday was my eighteenth wedding anniversary, AKA the sixteenth wedding anniversary I’ve spent alone since my husband Michael died suddenly and without warning in 2004. Usually, observing this day and remembering how wonderful Michael was in all his allness crushes me. (I’m not going to lie.)

But this year was different.

(Why? I don’t know.)

I decided that I was going to do my best to remember Michael as he was. How he loved to make me laugh. How he enjoyed doing just about anything with me. How he wanted to hear whatever I had to say on whatever subject, and about how interested he was to hear about my day even when I had been sick for three days running and hadn’t even been able to go to the computer.

In short, Michael was an outstandingly good husband as well as an outstandingly good man. And I felt better for remembering him that way.

Many anniversaries, I’ve thought more about what I’ve lost than what I’ve gained. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, either. It’s how I felt at the time, it was authentic, and it was the best I could do to process my catastrophic level of grief.

But this time, I was able to think more about what Michael and I did together. How we wrote, together and separately, and talked our stories out together. How we watched current events, sometimes bemusedly, sometimes with great insight, and could talk them through in a historical context. How we were able to talk about spiritual matters, him being a Zen Buddhist and me being a spiritual seeker who probably best aligns with NeoPaganism (but isn’t NeoPagan enough for some because I still appreciate the life and works of Jesus Christ and try to make common cause with what makes sense to me, especially “love one another”). How we were able to forge a life together despite previous divorces…

Anyway, concentrating on what we were good at together, and how good we were together, helped me a lot. I was able to get through the day with more peace than usual.

I will always wish Michael were still alive, beside me, on this plane of existence. I wish he were still here, writing his stories, writing with me, helping me with my stories, and editing for other people. I wish he were able to tell me what he thinks of the state of the world — most particularly the coronavirus concerns and the #BlackLivesMatter protests, though I’d be interested to hear his (likely trenchant) takes on the current crop of DC politicians (most especially President Trump, someone I don’t think Michael would’ve cared for at all due to that gentleman’s previous experiences as a reality TV star). I wish he were still here so I could see his smile, hear his laugh, enjoy his touch, and get to watch and listen and observe how he got through the world with such serenity and optimism.

But as he’s not alive on this plane — though I do believe the spirit is eternal, and that love never dies either, so in those senses he’ll always be with me — I can only do what I can to remember. And yesterday, I chose to remember the good.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 25, 2020 at 5:15 am

Relationships and Covid-19

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Folks, I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now, but here goes: I think people’s relationships are being tested in many unexpected ways by Covid-19.

I have some sympathy for this, even though my husband has been dead now for quite a number of years. Early in our marriage, we had a period of time where we were flat broke. Neither of us was working steadily, and that meant we were home most of the time. With each other, trying not to get in each other’s way…doing whatever we could to keep each other’s spirits up.

I think of that time when I think about people in long-term relationships, shut in with each other, and Covid-19 now. Because providing neither of you are ill — and God/dess forfend, I hope you aren’t — that’s what you’re enduring right now. You have 24/7 companionship, you’re unable to leave the house very often (if at all), and you must be trying to keep each other’s spirits up.

(If you’re not, I’d wonder about you. But again, as per usual, I digress.)

Because Michael and I found each other a bit later than many couples, we had already faced a number of challenges before we had to deal with our marriage being tested by being home, together, nearly every minute of every day. This made it a bit easier for us, as we had committed to talking things over before we ever got engaged, much less married…and we had also agreed before ever getting married that we’d make the commitment to stay together every single day, too.

What this meant, in practical terms, is that we talked things out often. The way he did things wasn’t necessarily the way I did things. But we both enjoyed each other’s company so much that we were able to compromise, or at least agree to disagree. And it led to some of the most delightful hours of our marriage, those hard times — all because we let ourselves talk to one another.

Well, refusing to deny what we felt was part of it, too. If one of us was having a bad day — and I admit, that person usually was me — being able to say I was having a hard time and get reassurance that it was perfectly acceptable to dislike the situation we were in helped me go on. And on the rare occasions Michael needed the same thing from me, I of course willingly gave him the same thing.

Now, as to how you can apply what I just discussed in your own situations, being trapped at home 24/7 and disliking the fact you can’t go out intensely? My best advice is to talk to one another. Admit that you feel bad, at least some of the time, that you can’t go out and do what you’d normally do. Admit that you are frustrated with the current situation, because no one has any idea when Covid-19 is going to let up; there’s still no vaccine (obviously), there’s no idea yet as to whether plasmaphoresis is going to work; there are very few drug treatments that have shown any ability to shorten the course of illness (if any at all); and because of the shadow of Covid-19, you don’t know when one of you is going to get sick!

See, all of this is scary stuff. But if you can admit to it, you’re ahead of the game.**

Anyway, I do understand how difficult it is right now for those of you in relationships. And while I don’t know if what I just said helps much, I figured saying it can’t hurt anything, either.

Just remember that eventually we’ll get back to some semblance of normal. But until then, treat each other gently.

———

**And guys, I know what you’re thinking. Trust me: being vulnerable to the one you love is sexy as Hell. (Got it?)

In Remembrance of Trouble

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Folks, years ago I wrote a blog called “Losing the Family Pet,” about my Mom’s Cocker spaniel, Blackie. That was hard.

This is even harder.

My favorite dog in the whole wide world, Trouble, died a few nights ago. He died at home, similar to the way Blackie died; the only difference was, Trouble went to sleep and just didn’t wake up. (The eyes did open at the end, though. Bigger than they had in weeks. I know this because I had to carry him out again. But more on that anon.)

Mom and I adopted Trouble in 2006 from the Humane Society. He was a Shih Tzu mix with black and white coloring. He looked Shih Tzu in the face, had the big brown puppy dog eyes they’re known for, but his back legs were much shorter than the front. He was smart, loyal, kind-hearted, loved his food, loved to play, loved to “romp” with his “girlfriend” (a pillow; Trouble had been neutered, as standard in Wisconsin, but his mind still felt he was potent, and that was that), and was the best dog I’d ever been around.

Yes, he was a typical dog. He loved walks. He occasionally escaped the back yard before Mom moved to an apartment, and that always worried me. But he came back — once with the help of a neighbor, as we had a major snowstorm that day and we were almost completely snowed in. And he’d look at me, and my mother, with puzzlement: “Hey, I always come back. So what’s the big deal?”

Mind, he never did escape again after that blizzard incident. He had learned his lesson. When the neighborhood kids unlocked the gate (as they weren’t supposed to do, but often did), Mom’s other dog Brat would escape. But not Trouble.

Nope. He stayed right in the backyard, and when I’d go check and find him, he’d give me a look that said, “Hey, I’m a good boy!”

And he was.

Trouble had the softest fur. But we kept it short, because it was easier for everyone. And I do mean everyone, because when Trouble was younger, he loved to play in the mud. We’d have to give him baths — sometimes more than one a day — to get him clean. And of course he hated the baths, but Mom and I hated the muddy feet and the muddy everything more than that, so into the bath he went.

When we adopted Trouble, they said they thought he was two. Our now-retired vet told us that Trouble could’ve been anywhere between a year to three years. So we went with two. And we adopted him at the very beginning of 2006, to the best of my knowledge…meaning he nearly made it to sixteen.

Of course, we got used to saying he was sixteen at least six months ago. As we honestly didn’t know, it was as good as age as any. And by then, Trouble had really slowed down. Like Blackie before him, Trouble lost his hearing first. Then, unlike Blackie, Trouble lost his vision. He also had severe osteoarthritis, made worse by the aforementioned short back legs; his back was spiny, toward the end.

But he never complained. Never whined. Never moaned. Never did anything, except come up to be petted. Or at least to sit by our feet (or in my case, on my feet, as he seemed to like that for some reason!), so we’d know he cared.

Trouble ate well up until a day before he died. He continued to drink water. He was able to eliminate, though it was harder for him some days than others. He slept a lot the last six months. And he’d gotten to the point that when I took him out for a walk, he’d do his business, then sit right down.

Mind, he still loved to sniff things. (He was a dog. That’s what they do.)

He also enjoyed being around “his people,” and loved us with every breath in his big-hearted body.

I once asked Trouble on a Valentine’s Day, “Hey, Trouble, will you be my boyfriend?”

He didn’t know what I was saying. I’m sure of that. But he perked up, and he must’ve heard something in my voice, because he came right over to me and put his head on my lap. (This is when he could still partially get up on my lap on his own. He’d stand on his back legs and put the forelegs and head on my lap; I’d pull him up from there.) And he stayed by my side that night, and many other nights; he knew when I didn’t feel well, and he knew when I was lonely, and he knew when I needed his attention.

Then, he’d play tug-of-war with me. Or he’d let me pet him. Or I’d give him a treat. Or  he’d just look at me with his big brown eyes and say wordlessly, “I know how you feel. It’s OK. I’m here.”

Trouble was my favorite dog. And it’s been hard to write this, because I picture him in so many ways. It’s hard to remember how much he loved life, in a way, because I’m the one who had to carry him out again and take him to the crematory. (This time, Mom was not up to it. And who can blame her?)

But he did love life. He was a wonderful canine companion. He adored us.

And we adored him.

I will miss Trouble terribly. And already am.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 23, 2019 at 3:24 pm

MLB Pitcher Tyler Skaggs Dies at 27

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I didn’t know anything about major league baseball pitcher Tyler Skaggs, before yesterday.

Then I found out that Skaggs had died at the young age of 27. No one’s sure why. He went to bed in a hotel room in Texas, as his team, the Los Angeles Angels, was about to play the Texas Rangers. And he never woke up. No foul play was suspected.

Skaggs’ death reminded me right away of another tragic and early death in major league baseball. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile died in 2002 at the age of 32 after going to bed in his hotel room while traveling with his team. No one suspected foul play there, either — and indeed, there was none. In Kile’s case, he had undiagnosed atherosclerosis — and it was so bad, it caused him to have what amounted to a massive heart attack. (Blood could not get to the heart properly, I think was the cause — but this happened in 2002, so don’t quote me.)

Skaggs’ death, as awful as it was, appears to have been a natural one.

Now, athletes — major league athletes in particular — tend to get the best possible medical care. They know so much more about how their bodies work, and why they do this, that, and the other; they know all sorts of things about fast-twitch reflexes, and they can repair ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments) to fix blown-out knees, and they can do Tommy John surgery to fix blown-out arms.

But with all that the doctors know, there’s still a great deal they don’t know.

My father calls this “the practice of medicine.” (As in, they’re just practicing.) And I suppose that’s as good a way to look at it as any, when it comes to sudden and unexpected deaths.

You may be wondering why this bothers me so much.

Years ago, when I was a child, I remember being at a Brewers game at Milwaukee County Stadium (the old stadium). New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson had just died in a plane crash, and there was a moment of silence for him. (Munson was a pilot, and was in the air in his own plane on his day off, if memory serves.)

I hated the Yankees. They were the Brewers biggest nemesis in the whole wide world. But I realized that day that Munson, as well as being a fantastic player, was a fellow human being, who left behind a family and friends and colleagues.

That, too, went through my mind when I heard about Skaggs’ passing.

Skaggs sounds like he was a very good man, in addition to being a good pitcher. He’d been involved in the California Strong campaign along with Brewers Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich, and Mike Moustakas; they all raised money for the victims of the California wildfires.

So, as in the deaths of Munson and Kile, Skaggs’ death has left big holes in the hearts of his wife and children; his extended family; his friends; and his colleagues.

All I can do is send a prayer or two, and hope it’ll do some good somehow.

If you’re so inclined, that may be a good idea also.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 2, 2019 at 4:44 am

Birthdays and Funerals

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Folks, on Friday, I went to my uncle Carl’s funeral. And Saturday was my birthday.

To say I feel strange at the confluence of events is understating the point. I never do all that well with birthdays anyway, as I am more like my late husband in this than not (he who famously celebrated “unBirthdays”). And today, my plans were simple.

But I was wrung out from everything else. My plans got changed; I had to rest, at home, and think, at home, and deal with the consequences of being alone, at home.

Anyway, my uncle Carl’s funeral is more important than this, so I will tell you about that instead…as he was a retired policeman, there was an honor guard around the casket until the service started. Three policemen were guarding it; two at each side, one to rotate in and out so the others could rest a bit. (Standing in one place like that is not easy.) The way they rotated in and out was like an elaborate ballet; the third officer would come up, salute the casket, turn on his heel, turn to the side, and the officer being relieved would come forward. Then the relieving officer would take the first person’s place…I’d never seen anything like that before.

Note that Carl was not much for pomp and circumstance. But I think he’d have appreciated his much younger colleagues doing this for him, even so.

There also was a 21-gun salute as Carl was a military veteran. (The young kids at the funeral were scared.) And I saw two young military women first drape the flag over Carl’s casket, then re-wrap the flag and hand it to one of my cousins, thanking my cousin gravely for my uncle’s military service. (My late husband was also a military vet, but the flag came in the mail already wrapped, with a letter from then-President Bush’s office thanking Michael for his service and, I suppose, me for being Michael’s wife.)

Carl was 88, and he’d outlived my aunt Laurice (his wife) by a little over a year. It’s hard to realize they’re both gone now, though as long as we remember them, at least a small part of them lives on. (Plus, my aunt and uncle had grandchildren, and even a few great-grands. Time marches on and all that.)

The last year or so, Carl was in and out of the hospital, and was in a nursing home. He probably didn’t enjoy that overmuch, but the folks who took care of him were smitten by his remaining charm and by how he approached life. (Even as he was dying — he had Parkinson’s, and it was at a late stage — he could still charm the socks off people if he wanted.) He may not have remembered entirely who he was at that point, but he was still the same generous-hearted person he’d always been, even to the last.

My personal view of my aunt and uncle? They came to a lot of my concerts, when I was young. They went to my high school graduation, and my aunt went to my first marriage. When I returned to Wisconsin after my late husband died in 2004, they were among the first to comfort me.

They were kind people. Smart, thoughtful, interesting…they lived their Christian faith in a way most others can’t seem to figure out.

It’s partly because of them that I kept trying, even as I was laid low by my late husband’s too-early passing. They were unafraid of my deep grief, and they were willing to listen to my memories of my husband. Carl even said to me that as fun-loving as Michael seemed to be, there would be no way Michael would want me to feel this bad for many years after his passing. (I think that is true, but my mind had its own ideas.)

Anyway, it does feel weird to be officially another year older. My aunt and uncle are gone. My husband is gone. My best friend is gone. My grandma is gone. Some of my other good friends over the years have dropped by the wayside, too, and I feel terrible about that even though I don’t know how to repair what became broken.

I’m fortunate that I do have family left. Good friends left. And a strong mind, a willing heart, and at least a dab of creativity here and there to make things a wee bit better.

I love them, and they love me, even if they don’t always understand me. (Well, I don’t always understand others, either. Maybe love transcends that in some way. I’m not sure.)

So, I’ll keep going, and remember those who’ve gone before me. And do my best to honor them, and their memories, all the days of my life.

Because really, what else can I do that’ll do any good?

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 19, 2018 at 12:06 am

A Belated Appreciation of Chester Bennington

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Last week, the first anniversary of singer Chester Bennington’s death passed. Bennington was the lead singer of Linkin Park, and had also sung in several other groups, including taking over as lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots after Scott Weiland. And I wanted to mark that anniversary at the time, but I wasn’t sure what to say.

See, Bennington fought life-long depression. He also fought against drug addiction, had been raped as a child, and had many different — and difficult — things crop up in his life. But he was not defined by his depression, or his addiction, or any of the other things; instead, he found a way to bring out his pain and share it — and in so doing, help assuage the pain of others.

Musicians do this, mind. Whether they’re singers or instrumentalists, musicians use what they’ve lived through to inform their art.

Chester Bennington did this better than any other singers in this era.

Mind, that wasn’t all Bennington brought to the table. He sang all sorts of different styles. His range was solid, his lung power was impressive, and he wasn’t afraid to do anything the music called for, including scream at the top of his lungs. He was a gifted performer, and made the audience feel with immediacy anything he wanted them to feel.

While I wish very much that Bennington was still here with us, what he left behind as a singer and musician was beautiful. And it should be celebrated that he lived, and created his art, and found excellent musicians and vocalists to work with (most especially Mike Shinoda), and did his best with what sounds like a remarkably difficult set of circumstances.

————–

Before I go, here are my five favorite Linkin Park songs (with Chester Bennington leads):

1) “The Little Things Give You Away”

2) “Pushing Me Away”

3) “Breaking the Habit”

4) “One More Light”

5) “One Step Closer”

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 24, 2018 at 2:38 am

Happy Summer Solstice to All…

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…and man, do we need it.

Folks, my hope for everyone is that the Summer Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) will bring about a positive change.

For me, this is when I start intensively thinking about my husband Michael. Because on this date in 2002, we’d taken out our marriage license. And we celebrated over the weekend as best we could, knowing we would marry on the 24th, which was also the night of a full moon as best I can recall.

We had the whole world to look forward to, then…love, happiness, spiritual fulfillment, the joy of creativity, the joy of emotional and physical and mental and spiritual harmony, and the fun of being around Michael — the funniest, most intelligent, most spiritual and most everything person I have ever known.

I wish our journey together had been longer than a bit over two years. But I will never regret marrying him. Marrying Michael was the best thing I have ever done, and I am very happy that I get to remember him in the ways that I do — at the height of his creative powers, and at his happiest and most content.

For us, the Summer Solstice of 2002 was extremely beneficial.

May your Summer Solstice of 2018 be equally generous.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 21, 2018 at 9:51 pm

Heat Wave…and Mike Shinoda’s New CD Post Traumatic

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For much of the day, it was too hot for me to think.

We had a heat advisory for much of the day, in fact, so I am spending the evening somewhere air conditioned. (Thank goodness.) That way, I can think better, breathe better, and also rest a whole lot better.

Because of that, I can do what I’ve wanted to do for a few days now: discuss Mike Shinoda’s extraordinary album (or CD release, if you’d rather), POST TRAUMATIC, in greater depth than I used in my review at Amazon.

Why?

Well, as a musician, and as a grieving widow, I understand a good deal of what Mike Shinoda has done on his CD.

For those of you who don’t have any idea who Shinoda is, he is a musician, rapper, producer, and one of the surviving members of the alt-rock band Linkin Park. Last year, their lead singer, Chester Bennington, killed himself.

At the time, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know much about Linkin Park’s music then, save perhaps “In the End.” So I’d heard Bennington’s voice — one of the more distinctive voices in rock, as he could go from very soft to very loud/screaming in what seemed like the drop of a hint — and had heard Shinoda rap, but not much else.

Since that time, I’ve listened extensively to four Linkin Park Albums, HYBRID THEORY (their debut, from 2000), METEORA (from 2003), MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (2007), and ONE MORE LIGHT LIVE (2017). I’ve heard a number of songs I think are extraordinary, including “What I’ve Done,” “Battle Symphony,” “The Little Things Give You Away,” and “In Pieces.” These aren’t as bombastic as early Linkin Park songs, but they contain much heart and emotion and empathy, along with solid musicianship and interesting lyrics.

As a woodwind musician, I respond to excellent musicianship much more than I do to lyrics. (Though don’t get me wrong; I enjoy lyrics, too.) And I could tell the craftsmanship of how these songs were put together the first time I heard them.

So, yeah…”Numb” and “Crawling” are great, and there are all sorts of other songs that had a lot of airplay that are fine, too. But to me, “The Little Things Give Me Away” or “What I’ve Done” pack a huge emotional punch along with their craftsmanship and musicianship, so they’re probably my favorites of LP’s work. (At least, the work I’ve heard. I still have more albums to listen to, of course.)

Anyway, I told myself months ago that I’d buy Mike Shinoda’s CD when it came out. I knew it would be emotional, along with having good, solid musical underpinnings and of course the rapping Shinoda’s known for. (Any CD that’s named POST TRAUMATIC obviously know what it’s about, after all.)

The CD starts off with “Place to Start,” which deals with Shinoda’s sadness, frustration, incomprehension, and perhaps a bit of rage after Bennington’s suicide. Because all of a sudden, Shinoda’s in a place he never wanted to be. His bandmate is dead. And his group, LP, will not be the same without their lead singer, especially as Bennington had a huge range (like Chris Cornell) and the ability to sing any style required.

The suddenness and unexpected nature of Bennington’s death reminded me very much of what happened to my husband Michael. (Michael died of several heart attacks in one day, without warning, mind.) And Shinoda’s reaction to it reminded me very much of how I responded after Michael died; by incomprehension, numbness, anger, rage, sadness, frustration…and wondering how I’d ever manage to create again, considering Michael was my co-writer as well as my partner in life.

The next song, “Over Again,” deals with the run-up to the benefit concert LP did after Bennington’s death along with the aftermath for Shinoda personally. And the chorus, which says, “Sometimes, you don’t say goodbye once…instead you say goodbye over and over and over again, over and over and over again,” resonated very strongly with me.**

Other songs, including “About You” (featuring Blackbear), talk about how when you do finally manage to find a bit of peace, someone else brings up something that reminds you again about how you are grieving, and relates it back to the sudden death you have just endured. (“Even when it’s not about you, it’s still about you,” goes the verse. Yep. Ironic sometimes, and the literal truth other times. Works on every level.)

“Promises I Can’t Keep” and “Crossing a Line” both deal with the problem of how do you go on afterward. You need to do whatever you can, but you can’t do it the way you did before, and you may break promises even when you do your best, because your best alone is not what your best would’ve been with your creative partner (and you well know it). And to get to a new creative place, you may well need to cross a few lines…in Shinoda’s case, he has four other bandmates who have to be wondering about the future of Linkin Park every bit as much as Shinoda obviously is, and Shinoda seems rightfully worried that if he succeeds in his solo venture (as I sincerely hope he does; his message is powerful and his music is equally powerful), his bandmates won’t appreciate it much.

(I’m guessing they won’t have a problem with it, personally. But I can see why he’d be worried, sure.)

There are a few songs that are harder for me to handle than others, mind, because of the raw, emotional, and sometimes deeply profane lyricism. But that’s just another color in Shinoda’s palette, and I get it, artistically; this is what’s authentic to him, and as such, it works. And works very well.

In short, as I said at Amazon, POST TRAUMATIC is a heartbreakingly beautiful album. It goes through so many different emotions, moods, and feelings, all of which rang true to me. And the music itself is superb, with “Brooding” (an instrumental) probably my absolute favorite cut of all.

If you are grieving, if you’re a fan of alternative rock with electronic elements and rap mixed with solid musicianship and outstanding emotional lyricism, or if you’re a fan of Linkin Park, you need to hear this album.

Mind, you may not always like it, ’cause it’s a tough album to listen to due to its subject matter. But stick with it. It’s cathartic, raw, emotional, and real…and as such, it might be the most important album of 2018.

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**Edited to add: The dangers of writing when you’re tired got to me earlier. I mistyped the lyrics, and have now corrected them. (Sorry to all who read this sooner than I realized I needed to correct ’em, or read in their e-mail.) The error is mine alone.

 

 

Why Do We Feel So Bad When a Celebrity Suicides?

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Over the past week, two celebrities — handbag designer Kate Spade, and chef Anthony Bourdain — died in apparent suicides. And the grief when someone in the public eye kills himself (or herself) can be overwhelming. Whether that person is an actor, a sports star, a chef, a politician, or anything else that somehow brought that person to the heights of fame, the fact that person has a fan following before passing away so suddenly and abruptly by his/her own hand seems to magnify the outpouring of grief.

Or, at least, it seems to magnify how much that grief is being felt, because now the grief that people feel over the celebrity’s passing is also being covered in the news. And has become news in its own right.

Is this wrong?

Possibly, but not covering the grief people feel when someone they saw on television or the internet passes in such a sorrowful way also would be wrong.

See, these folks — who don’t know most of us from Adam or Eve — become like our friends. We get to know them. We care about them. We enjoy seeing them. And we want to believe, somehow, that their moment on the public stage will last forever…even though we know that’s impossible.

Lest you think I don’t understand why people feel terrible when people they knew (or at least knew of) ended their lives, I need to give you some background.

A very good friend of mine died by his own hand when I was in my early twenties. He was a smart man, a kind man, a caring man. He played organ in the church. He owned a home, which he’d inherited from his mother. He was a huge football fan. And he was a particularly gifted bowler, to the point he could’ve — and quite possibly would’ve, had he lived — made the Professional Bowler’s Tour.

(Yes, there is such a thing. Though there is a regional circuit to handle, first. And that takes a while to navigate. But I digress.)

My friend was only thirty-eight. And he felt he had nothing to live for, because he didn’t have a romantic relationship; he didn’t seem close to his family; he didn’t believe he should impose upon his friends.

So, one day, he told me and my then-husband one story about where he was going. And he told another good friend a different story. By the time we sorted out the stories, my friend had been dead for a few days.

He died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

He’d battled severe depression for quite some time. And he was in immense, enormous pain. His emotional state had gotten to be so dreadful, he couldn’t reach out anymore. And he didn’t want his friends to worry; he didn’t think we should worry.

That’s why he did what he did.

And to this day, I can’t think about my friend, and wonder about why he wouldn’t reach out to me. But I also know that he just wasn’t capable of doing it at the time; he was too upset, too hurt, too confused, maybe too angry with himself…just not in the right frame of mind, and couldn’t understand that he truly did matter.

I think, honestly, he didn’t believe anyone would remember him past the hour of his death. But he was wrong.

Getting back to the two celebrities who just passed away — I didn’t know Kate Spade personally, though I knew of her designs. (Very clever handbags, and quite attractive ones.) I didn’t know Anthony Bourdain either, though I read some of his writing (good stuff, with a visceral, meaty undertone; perfect for the chef he was), and saw at least parts of a few of his shows. I know they were creative people, and they did the best they could in their lives to maximize their creativity in a positive way.

And their deaths leave a big hole in the world, because they were known to have done this.

Of course their friends, their loved ones, their work mates, and everyone who held them in high esteem are devastated. How could they not be?

So, in a way, I can answer the question I posed above, regarding why we seem to feel a celebrity’s suicide so much stronger than a “run-of-the-mill person.” (Not that there is any such animal, but again, I digress.)

I think we do this because of our common humanity. And because many of us do know at least one person who has died, suddenly, because the pain got to be too much for him or her…and all we can do when we see that someone else has died in that same, sudden way is to extend our hands in sympathy.

We do this because we’re human. And it’s the best part of who we are, that leads us to mourn, even for those we didn’t know.

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P.S. No matter what you think when you’re at your worst, about your own personal shortcomings, or about the things you haven’t managed to do yet, or the people you feel you’ve failed — you matter, gentle reader.

Yes. You do.

And if you feel like you don’t, please get yourself to a counselor, a physician, a psychiatrist, a priest…whoever you can reach that has at least a little training in how to deal with someone in a major life-crisis (depression certainly is that, though most don’t seem to believe so). (Please?)