Facing the MusicApril 15, 2010 at 6:48 am | Posted in Family | 34 Comments
His name was Keith. He had red hair and wore glasses. He always walked fast, like he knew where he was headed and needed to get there. He took French.
It’s been 16 years. And that’s about all I can remember.
Except for this. He played the saxophone. I mean, he played. And when he did, it was like honey: sweet, smooth, thick, golden.
And this. His mother collapsed in on herself at his funeral. She wept desperately and fiercely, as if her feral cries would somehow yield courage.
And this. Someone planted a tree near his gravestone. Its tiny green leaves practically glowed when I would visit each April. Hanging on one of its branches, the yellow tassel from his graduation cap faded a little more each season.
He was on his way to a music lesson at a local university when he crossed the center line, collided with a truck, and was killed instantly. He was a senior in high school.
He was my friend.
I was 16. I had no idea life could be that way. Could end so fast. Could just stop, while the rest of us tried to stay in motion. While we tried to keep the music playing and find harmony again.
Now, as a mother, I reflect on his loss in a different way. I dread that my children will know such grief. I worry that I won’t be able to kiss away their pain, as I do with their scrapes and bruises. I fear that I won’t be able to silence the dark voices and unanswerable questions. Because I know those monsters lurk much longer than the ones under their beds, behind their curtains.
And sometimes I let myself go there. I break through the mental locks, gates, and barriers I have steadfastly constructed since I became a mother. I let myself imagine the utter devastation of soul and strength that Keith’s mother felt. Just for the briefest of moments, because that’s as long as I can bear.
And then I turn back. I relock the gates. And I listen for the music.
Because it’s always there. As sweet and soothing as honey.