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To Wake the Dead

March 10, 2011

Last week I wrote about losing a loved one, my wonderful grandmother, and how hard it is to say the right thing. What my family taught me, or perhaps reminded me, this week is that there are two cures for this plight:

1) shared grief.
2) don’t talk. sing.

My family is awesome. Truly, they are my best friends in the world and, collectively, that is the group of people I’d rather hang out with than anyone. Any day. So even in the midst of our mourning, I think we were all looking forward to being together. We took comfort in sharing our sadness and celebrating the life that, quite literally, brought us together.

And celebrate we did. In a way that only my family can, we took over a semi-deserted hotel bar with a good dozen of us and a guitar. We sang every song we knew as loudly and proudly as we could. We got the bartender rocking out and the other drinkers making requests. We belted out everything from Neil Young to Radiohead to Motown and even one of my grandma’s favorites, a Depression-era ditty about a meatball. Rounds were bought. Drinks were drunk. Stories were told that had been told countless times before. Tears were dried – both from laughter and from loss. And somewhere in the middle of it all, the hurt abated just a bit and we could all breathe easier.

So we sang. Enough to wake the dead. It’s just what we do. When we’re on vacation together (which we do regularly) or hanging out at someone’s house. Whether we’re a full group or a random assortment of relatives. We’ve got folks who’ve made a living at music and those of us (me) who should probably just keep their mouths shut in public.  But we don’t.  And you know what? It’s so incredibly healing. 

I think she’d like that. Not the singing, as that would have most definitely embarrassed the living crap out of my very proper grandmother.  No, I think she’d like the fact that all the people she loved most in the world and who loved her with all their hearts, found such solace in each other.  That we come together when we’re happy, in beautiful places all over the country. And we come together when we’re sad, in cheesy hotel bars in downtown Fresno.  And we will continue to do so, every chance we get.  If that’s not a measure of a life well lived, and well-loved, then I don’t know what is.


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