The Soundtrack of Death

Convention holds that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s so well known it’s a damn cliché. For me, it’s more of a soundtrack.

I Can’t Get Over You – Buddy Miller

This is the song you will sing at your husband’s bedside when he’s on a ventilator and continual dialysis, slipping deeper into a toxic tumor lysis coma. Sometimes you’ll try to read out loud to him from that enormous Neil Stephenson book that he loves, but mostly you’ll sing lowly and tunelessly. You’ll hold his hand, glad that at least he’s not frantically thrashing around like he was when you first brought him into the hospital. At least he’s not calling you by your daughter’s name because the malignant lesion on his brain is destroying it.

Wise Up – Aimee Mann

Already covered in another entry. This is the song you will listen to after you leave the hospital when your husband has been taken off life support and died. You will hear the line “you’re sure – there’s a cure – and you have finally found it …but it’s not going to stop” and know that your husband is never coming home. You are driving home alone, and you will be driving alone from now on.

Too Old To Die Young – Kevin Welch & Kieran Kane (Moe Bradley’s version is a little too upbeat, but The Trishas are almost as good as Welch.)

This is the song you will listen to during your excruciating period of public widowhood. The memorial services, the endless trays of lasagna from friends who don’t know what else to do. The closed-mouth smile, the having to tell other people that you’re okay, somehow trying to make them feel okay with your tragedy. It’s the only way you can understand what has happened. You, too, will pray that you won’t feel the chill, that God will let you watch your children grow, to see what they become.

Lose Yourself – Eminem

This the song you will listen to over and over when you realize you have two almost-four-year-old children and a job and a mortgage and you are going to have to fucking cowboy up and figure this shit out on your own. Success is your only motherfucking option, failure’s not. You are not going to lose your job and your house. You are going to pull your children through the mess kicking and screaming. You are going to get out of bed, pack lunches and go do your job. You will take oceans of xanax to suppress the panic attacks brought on by hospital nightmares. You will not cry in front of your kids because it could scare them and make them worry that you are anything else than in total control of the situation. You will kill the pain in a rainbow of stupid decisions. You will not talk about this with your friends. You will be a numbly functioning machine.

Keep Breathing – Ingrid Michaelson

This will be song where you finally admit that you have been hurt in ways too deep to scar over quickly. Staples will start to pop out along the incision. You don’t care who sees you crying now. You have your new normal vaguely under control, but your nerves are completely shot in that long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs way. Your reaction time to childcare disasters is  .03 seconds. Your reaction to workplace disasters is somewhat slower. You stop opening your mail because you don’t fucking care any more.

Three years in the making, and I don’t know what song comes next in this soundtrack.


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