“…Those wounds stay with you, and you turn them into a language and a purpose.” Gesturing toward the band onstage, he said, “We’re repairmen—repairmen with a toolbox. If I repair a little of myself, I’ll repair a little of you. That’s the job.”
—Bruce Springsteen, as quoted in The New Yorker.*
When my aunt Marjorie was dying of lung cancer in January 2006, there was one message I wanted to give her:
Go in peace.
I wrote my message into a song that I sang with my sister, cousin, and niece at Marjorie’s memorial service. Creating and offering the song helped me move through my own sadness at losing my loving, funny, irreverent aunt. It gave me something to do with my sadness, someplace to put it. I repaired a little of myself: Go in peace.
Late in 2006, I recast the song so it wouldn’t refer specifically to the events of Marjorie’s life, and it dawned on me that I was now writing the song for my dad. He was in stage five of Parkinson’s disease, and the websites and pamphlets do not list a stage six. I guess I was trying to pencil in my own stage six: Go in peace.
It was my deep hope and prayer for my dad that he would go in peace, but I’m not sure that he did. Grief about this fact has been smoldering in me, privately and intensely, since his death in 2007.
But what smolders changes. Eventually the fuel burns up, and the process is complete.
I had the opportunity to spend ten days in Kauai. On one of those gorgeous mornings I was up early and sitting alone in a tropical garden, reflecting on the beatitude “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” A strange peace swept over me, and tears began to stream down my face. I had forgotten that maybe God sent the song “Go in Peace,” in part, for me. For my healing. The events of my dad’s death will never change, and others might not go in peace, but I can go in peace. I have that choice.
I sat there quietly singing the song to myself.
My intention now is to take up the invitation. To turn out the lights on the scene and leave the room. To let it go.
When we returned from Kauai, I filled the last pages of a journal that I had started a few days after my dad died. I was writing the ending to a story. Not the whole story of my grief or of my life, but one story within my grief, and within my life.
I’m currently recording I recently recorded a CD of ten of my songs, including “Go in Peace.” To listen to a sample of “Go in Peace” and read the lyrics, click here.
As I continue to work with this song, it continues to work in me, and I repair a little of myself. I think The Boss was right: “If I repair a little of myself, I’ll repair a little of you. That’s the job.”
* “We Are Alive: Bruce Springsteen at 62,” by David Remnick. The New Yorker, July 30, 2012.