In August of 1991, my boyfriend, John, created a mixed tape for me. It was the second one in our two-and-a-half year relationship. Every girl loved getting a “mixed tape,” from their boyfriend. It was the equivalent of receiving a love poem, it was a declaration of his love for me. It was a big deal. The first tape made, was a girl’s dream, easy to decipher his feelings through song lyrics, I anxiously anticipated and expected, the second tape would hit all of the high notes of the first one.
I popped it into my car radio and drove around to listen to it in its entirety, while puffing away on Marlboro lights. There were a few songs repeated from the first tape, which was sweet and meaningful, but the rest of the recordings were heavy rock, even some metal thrown in, songs I didn’t feel connected with, or songs we knew as a couple.
On September 1, 1991, while driving home from a friend’s house, John’s car struck a tree. He was killed almost immediately in the crash. He was an easy, kind and loving man. Being nineteen, it was a huge shock, for all who knew and loved him. Memories are like splintered glass. I remember collapsing in the church during his service. Howling like a wounded animal on the floor of my bedroom as I grieved the loss of him, and my mother peeling me up into her arms. The gentle pause upon waking, forgetting as I returned from dreamtime, only to be tossed back into a living nightmare. I felt sick to my stomach. My bones ached. My skin crawled. It hurt to move through day-to-day life, while I watched others live theirs. I cried for what he would never be and what his parents lost. I was completely devastated.
After he died, I grasped for familiar things. For pieces of him. Pieces of us. I buried my face in his clothing and sniffed his scent to keep him close. I morned him grave-side and convinced my parents reserve a cemetery plot right near his. I began to search, to understand the unimaginable. I drove around and listened to his tapes, mostly the first one, but then I popped in August ’91.
Love Song, by Tesla, blared out through my sound system. As the lyrics penetrated my consciousness, I was overwhelmed by emotion and had to pull the car over. There were three songs on the August cassette that rose above the rest—it was as if they were shot down on a beam of light—for me—for that precise moment. The moment afterhis death. These three songs illuminated my heart and gifted me messages of love, comfort and direction.
Love Song ~ Tesla
So, you think that it’s over, say your love has finally reached the end
Any time you call, night or day, I’ll be right there for you
If you need a friend
It’s gonna take a little time, time is sure to mend your broken heart
But don’t you even worry, pretty darlin’, ‘cos I know you’ll find love again
Love is all around your, love is knockin’ outside your door
Waitin’ for you is this love made just for two
Keep an open heart and you’ll find love again, I know
It’s all around
It’s all around
Love will find a way – darlin’, love is gonna find a way
Find its way back to you
Love will find a way – so look around, open your eyes…
A song that didn’t make sense prior to his passing, was transformed into an arrow piercing through my heart. It was more than a message, it was a confirmation. I was deeply supported and loved, not only in the current life, but from in the higher realms. Even though he was no longer in human form, he was ever present.
Many people close to me and his family felt John’s presence during the first days after his passing. My father felt him in our house in the early hours of his death. A man who never talked about anything spiritual, had experienced energy he couldn’t explain. My connection remained long after his services. One evening, John revealed himself as a brilliant orb of light in my room. I would often feel him at night, in the quiet and stillness, I felt him hover near me.
The second song, Silent Lucidity, by Queensryche, reminded me of the night visits.
Silent Lucidity ~ Queensryche
Hush now, don’t you cry
Wipe away the teardrop from you eye
You’re lying safe in bed
It was all a bad dream
Spinning in your head
Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life
So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over…or has it just begun?
I will be watching over you
I am gonna help you see it through
I will protect you in the night
I am smiling next to you, in Silent Lucidity
What was becoming more and more clear to me, was that love, in its purest form, never dies. It was eternal and by extension of love, John was external too.
I began a search to ground these experiences in something solid. I read books on the after-life, I visited churches, explored spiritual texts and went to talk-therapy. I sought to comprehend, to categorize, and possibly to normalize what I was personally experiencing. I wanted to understand the big why of it all. What I discovered was, within this tragedy, gifts were being bestowed and angel upon the earth, were showing up. From the police officer on the scene to the nurse who ran from her house to assist on the night of the fatal accident, to the countless ways people arrived during this difficult time, love was pulling all of us closer.
In the months that followed John’s transition, I saw for the first time, what truly mattered. My heart had been undone, but by pure grace, it was being reassembled by peaceful hands. I felt uplifted and insanely grateful. I had a life to live, and I got to decide how to live it. I was empowered and humbled. I began to let go of the guilt I had carried. I was supposed to be with him on that night, but I picked up a shift at work instead. I had to put to rest the endless obsessive thoughts. I had to accept his time on earth was a short. Maybe he completed what he came here to do, and was sent home, but I wasn’t. I was still here. As I realized the precious gift I was given, I was posed a different question…
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver
The third song, On the Turning Away, by Pink Floyd, was an invitation, to evaluate my life. To make it important. To do good work and deeply appreciate it. All of life, is so very precious, delicate and ours to delight in.
On the Turning Away ~ Pink Floyd
…It’s a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud…
On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange
Mesmerized as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night
No more turning away
From the weakened the weary
No move turning away
From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?
As I questioned the reason for returning to these memories (27 years later), to revisit the pain, I realized it was now time to release the discomfort. To say good-bye to the grief and the story of it. I no longer needed to feel the sadness. I had spent decades processing and working through this loss, it was time to let go of what remained. I honor his memory and his message by living, not by holding on to the pain. It was never meant to linger and become a haunting facet of my life, or anyone else’s. I have teenage boys and have struggled to separate old trauma with the present events. At times, fear has spilt over from the past, into the here and now. My boys have felt it, but unfortunately, they thought it was them. In truth, only partly. The residue of fear affects me and the people in my life. It was often subtle, clothed in care and concern, but at the very core of it, my actions and thoughts came from a fear of the past. Fear is a powerful force, but today, I can see it as it is, and I can choose differently.
Today, I choose love. To release dark energy from around my heart. To become liberated by opening and allowing for a deeper exchange of love to enter. No need to fear. Love is eternal.
Universal love is all around me—all around us—all of the time. With a pure and grateful heart, I say thank you. I rise every morning and set an intention to live fully without limitations. More often than not, the limitations I speak of are not exterior, they are interior. In releasing grief, and the fear of it returning, I become expansive. If I am expansive, I am in the flow of living my best life, the sacred gift I was given. Today I practice letting go, as I have been shown throughout my lifetime, I am not alone, and I am loved deeply.
And, so are you.