All things happen for a reason. Some of us believe that. Even I believe that on my own terms.
And so, tonight, at the place where I work, we have lost one of our angels. For no good reason. For the randomness of cancer. Maybe for genetics. Maybe for environmental circumstances beyond her control or awareness.
And today, for no particular reason, on Spotify, where I would normally, in December, look for Christmas songs and holiday cheer, I didn't. There was something else in my head. And that something was Bruce Springsteen.
It is December, but, driving down the road, for no good reason, I didn't go for Sufjan or Guaraldi or the Chieftans. I had a different song in my head. I wanted to hear "Death To My Hometown." Because it felt kind of like my band, in over-dramatized fashion. I wondered if we were looking at "death" in a melodramatic way, because we were unconnected, diffuse, seeing things in different ways. Just plain lost in our purpose.
And that one Springsteen song led me back to thinking about the CD. And the CD led me back to my favorite songs from it, the greatest of which is the title track, "Wrecking Ball." That song is one of the more clever allegories on record-- a paean to the Meadowlands stadium about to be torn down when the song was written and a rumination on the singer's own mortality.
I was listening to it on the way to meet a friend for lunch. And (spoiler alert) when I listen to a song that is really powerful to me, I tear up. Sometimes I cry openly. The right song can do that to me again and again and again. Even years later. And so "Wrecking Ball" with all of its great lyrics, had me teared up on one of the main thoroughfares in the city, so much so that I looked in the rear view to see if my eyes were becoming swollen, which they were.
When Springsteen captures the moment of imminent destruction by declaring, "'Cause tonight all the dead are here/ So bring on your wrecking ball," that's when I lose it. Because I have my own dead, many more of them than I would like to have. And the reminder of them in the immediate present (which he does again later on "We Are Alive") somehow always seems to populate the day with all of my lost ones.
For some of us, like me, we seem to feel those lost ones the most around Christmas, that season when life seems more worth living and memories of past times are more vivid.
Tonight I think of that work friend, a cheerful woman who had the simple, essential, but often overlooked job of delivering our mail, and I think that the world is a lesser place with her gone. She liked to remind us, at this time of year, that students had left gifts for us, that the mailroom was overflowing, that we mattered in our jobs, in our attempts to reach nearly-grown men. Since she has had to step away, what has taken her place has been more void than being.
As in so many aspects of life, Springsteen had it right:
Yeah, we know that come tomorrow,
None of this will be here,
So hold tight to your anger,
Hold tight to your anger,
Hold tight to your anger,
And don't fall to your fear.
Yeah, Life, take your best shot, let me see what you've got. Bring on your wrecking ball. But don't expect to win easily. She fought.