“If I Die Young” by The Band Perry is plays frequently on the radio these days. (A little too frequently from Kylie’s perspective I believe.) I first heard about the song from Kylie. I think she heard of it from the girls at SPSG; the ones who decided to choreograph a dance in Cameron’s honor at the spring dance concert. There was lots of Facebook chatter about which song they should choose. Much of it centered on two of Cameron’s favorite artists: Bruce Springsteen and the Jonas Brothers. “If I Die Young” was one of the suggestions. It wasn’t chosen for the dance but we did play it at her Celebration. Tim did the most amazing slide show of photographs from Cameron’s life and set it to that song. It was a brilliant tribute to a beautiful girl. It took so much out of him, doing that. He says he is numb to the song now. I’m not. It still pains me to listen to it. I still punch the radio station button when it comes on. I change the channel rather than listening to it. But sometimes, the song comes through. Last time I heard it, it came through loud and clear.
I was out for a simple 5 minute errand. Off to my pals at the Post Office to mail a parcel to Australia. I do it almost every week. I had a random FM station on. The song came on and I quickly changed stations. My errand accomplished, I hopped in the car and drove home. It came on again – this time on the second station I had chosen. Remember yesterday’s lesson: There are no coincidences I thought so I stuck it out and listened. It was raining outside and soon tears started rolling down my cheeks. I’d never really listened to the song, only the chorus. So this is what I heard for what seemed like the first time:
If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song
Lord make me a rainbow,
I’ll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors
Oh, and life ain’t always what you think it ought to be, no
Ain’t even gray, but she buries her baby
The sharp knife of a short life
Well, I’ve had just enough time
What would you say if I told you that that very day, Tim, Kylie and I were headed to one of the girls’ favorite places? The Chester River – to see the Annie D and the tribute plaque they put on the refurbished boat in her honor? I’m thinking, by now, you are joining me in saying “there are no coincidences.” I didn’t see a rainbow that day. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t there – but it did snow. In October. We all thought that was pretty cool.
I guess the final refrain is what I am working on today, on this trip to visit Lara and Rowan. No doubt I’ll still be working on it tomorrow and next week and this month and this year and likely for the rest of my lifetime: honoring the message of that song. I had just enough time. I guess she did. I guess I did. Why think otherwise?
In a way, I am trying to live with my pain rather than avoid it but, at the same time, make some space around it, some stillness so it doesn’t eat me alive from within. That space I am seeking has been defined by Eckard Tolle as what comes “when there is inner acceptance of whatever you are experiencing in the present moment.”
I’ve had just enough time.
Such a simple truth. Life is about is how we use our time, the choices we make.
I’ve been walking this path for a while now. In 19xx, JoAnna and I went on a girls weekend to Annapolis. I remember Tim commenting on how ridiculous he thought it was. That she flew out to Maryland and then we went away to Annapolis. Well, for us, it was magical. We stayed in a simple bed and breakfast and slept and shopped and drank champagne and walked around and she ate seafood at O’Learys. I can’t recall a thing about what I ate, why would I? But I can remember asking for restaurant recommendations and Alan Hornstein recommended O’Leary’s on the Eastport side. I’m guessing JoAnna enjoyed her meal. I think I’d be more likely remember if she didn’t.
During that shopping trip, we happened into a small shop selling all kinds of gift items. Mostly upscale, items for home; vases, sculptures, wind chimes. They were tasteful and pleasing to the eye. I also remember that the shop was closed. It must have been Saturday evening after the end of the shopping day in town. The fact that it was closed mattered because, you see, there was something in the window I wanted. A small piece of art that spoke to me. We looked at the time the shop reopened on Sunday and asked ourselves if it was possible. I was on a short leash. Tim and the girls were back in Lutherville and although I enjoyed being gone, I disliked being away from them for too long. My feeling now was that I had to be home by a certain time. In fact, if I looked it up, it might well have been that Cameron had a soccer game.
Like all things that are meant to be, it worked out fine. We needn’t have worried. The shop opened and we had enough time. Indeed, it was actually unlocked and available even before the posted time. That day I bought 3 8 x 10 prints by an artist whose work I’d never seen but whose name I now know – Brian Andreas. That day I only knew that his work, actually it was his words, that compelled me.
Since that day, one of the prints has hung in the downstairs powder room of our home. Last time our property was on a house tour, roughly half of the female visitors asked me about that print. It reads:
There has never been a day
when I have not been proud of you,
I said to my daughter,
though some days I’m louder about other stuff
so it’s easy to miss that.
The second one I took to work.
the day she figured out
exactly enough time
for the important things in her life.
Having it on my desk speaks my priorities. I wonder if the people who were surprised when I later quit my full-time job had ever taken time to read it?
The third one I purchased I knew was either going to be a hit or a bust. Things were troubled in my marriage then. They have been troubled, unfortunately, more years than they have been good. I wondered if Tim would share my sense that the humor the artist conveyed spoke to our reality in a way that always went unspoken between us. I don’t think he appreciated it. He rarely appreciates my efforts in that regard – trying to acknowledge, with humor, the pain that permeates our relationship.
Do you ever listen to me? she said
& I said I did but sometimes it took a couple of days to sort it out
in a way that didn’t make me want to murder her in her sleep.
JoAnna bought one that day, too. She might have bought more. I can only remember one:
For a long time, she flew
only when she thought no one else was watching.
I went back to that store after Cameron and Paris died. This time I was with Paris’ best friend Ashleigh. Australia is the third country Ashleigh has lived in and the second continent. She’s traveled extensively and had even been to America before. I thanked her for following through and told her I thought she was brave to have done so. No one would have given it a second thought if she had declined to participate in the exchange to St. Paul’s. She said she did if for Paris – because coming to America was such an important dream of hers.
We all have just enough time. Does that thought resonate with you or repel you? I figure it’s now part of my life lesson. I may spend each day of my time working on this lesson.
I think I will know I have learned it when I stop asking myself if there couldn’t have been a simpler way, a less painful way to have been brought to reckon with it. “Ain’t even gray, but she buries her baby.”