Grief

My daughter was listening to Death Cab for Cutie’s “Marching Bands of Manhattan” this morning. It’s a beautiful song, but I find it sad–incredibly sad. So sad that it often makes me cry, even though I love the song. Here’s the chorus:

Sorrow drips into your heart through a pin hole
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
But while you debate half empty and half full
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown

You need to listen to the song, though, to really understand why I find it so evocative, so sad. The lyrics are beautiful, but the layering of the vocals, the instruments, the melody, the ambient sounds of the piece–that dreamlike layering makes it tug at me insistently. The song itself floats and builds until you’re drowning in it. Go listen to it now. Listen with your eyes closed, because I just want you to listen and not pay attention to the video. (But. It might make you sad. Maybe don’t go listen if you don’t want to be sad.) (Maybe it won’t make you said. Heck, we’re all different. Maybe to you, it’s happy.)

I don’t know what Death Cab means by this song. I suppose I could google and try to read about authorial intent or about what other people think they meant. I don’t care about the authorial intent, though.

To me, this song is about grief.

Usually, I think about grief-as-a-stone. A lump of rock. Something I carry around in the center of myself, something that weighs me down, even as the rest of life might buoy me up. I’ve had a great week at work. We welcomed new students to campus with a flurry of events that all went well. There’s tons of energy during these early weeks of the fall semester. I’m excited about my fall classes. My kids are enjoying the new school year so far. My latest novel will be released in about a month. LIFE IS GOOD. I am generally happy. I have somehow ended up with the best friends and family I can imagine possibly having. I love myself. I live authentically. I love my life fiercely. And yet. This lump of grief still weighs me down.

Nothing huge has changed in our Parkinson’s picture over the last few months, so I’m not altogether sure why I’m feeling an upswell of grief about it right now. I just am.

And did you catch that change of metaphor?

“Upswell.”

So maybe grief isn’t like a rock. Maybe it’s more like water. And maybe that’s why the Death Cab song catches me off guard nearly every time I hear it.

Sorrow drips into your heart through a pin hole

Drip. Drip. Drip. On and on. Unceasing and relentless. So small, like a pin hole, but just imagine that heart filling with grief through that pin hole. Drip. Drip.

Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound

“And there is comfort in the sound.” Comfort because there is no grief without first knowing love, tremendous love. Comfort because at least the grief is familiar. I do know how to navigate this. I breathe through this. I wait through the upswell. I watch for the crocuses. I cherish. THIS grief means there is still life.

But while you debate half empty and half full
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown

I’m not going to unpack those. Those are the lines that really make me cry.

Some days, there is just a lot of grief.

This is an upswell and I know the water will recede.

 

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