When I first sat down to write this tribute, weeks and weeks ago... I pretty much couldn't. Anyone who knows me (or has at least browsed around C&S at all) is certain to have observed that I'm a rather verbose individual by nature, and writing things down--exploring my inner thoughts and musings and getting them defined and organized enough to translate into text--is a big part of how I process life and its events. In this case, though, the words just wouldn't come; I didn't even know where to start. I suppose I'd had it in the back of my mind for a quite a while that, as ageless as he often seemed, Jimi wasn't getting any younger, and he wouldn't be around forever. But I truly did not expect to lose him in anything like the manner that actually happened. I had always thought there would be some warning--an illness, a string of cancelled tour dates, something to signal that the end was at hand, and I had better brace myself against it.
Obviously, that didn't happen. ::heavy sigh::
The first indication I had of anything wrong was when my email chimed on the night of September first, just as my husband and I were finishing our dinner. The message was from a friend who was also a fan, and she didn't even come out and say what had happened in so many words, instead simply pleading with me to tell her that what she had been hearing wasn't true. I had a single moment of confusion, and the thought, What on Earth could have prompted her to say something like that? And then, out of the blue, the explanation hit me: Oh no--has something happened to Jimi?
And I thought I'd never know
The season to see you go...
I scrambled to get out onto the web, hoping against hope that I'd misunderstood, that my intuition was off... but, there it was. The awful truth, written in the stark, unforgiving black and white of a TMZ news headline. I remember just standing there, staring at the words--my head was spinning, I couldn't breathe, and I thought my heart was either going to pound itself right through my ribs or just stop altogether. Something in me was silently screaming "no, no, no" over and over again, begging the Goddess for some sign that this wasn't right--that it was a mistake, a hoax, even some horrible nightmare that I would wake up from in a moment and all would be well again. Unfortunately, though, even She couldn't oblige.
I don't think I'd ever really understood what being "broken hearted" meant until that moment. All of the sweetness that was Jimi Jamison--all his warmth and talent and kindness and humor--all of it gone in the space of a heartbeat, carried off by the frailty of mortal flesh. It seemed impossible, unbelievable, unreal... and in some ways, I suppose it still does. He made such a huge impression on the world at large, and on my little corner of it in particular, that it just doesn't make any sense to have to think of him in the past tense, so to speak. But, alas, one can't argue with the facts, even when they're as painful as this--and while I knew that I wanted and needed to pay my final respects to him in some way, in the beginning, I really was just at a complete loss for words. The sheer shock and devastation of his death made it hard to think very much past the moment, and at last I decided that I'd just have to put off writing anything for a little while, until I had a chance to come to terms with the situation better.
The problem was, though... that wasn't happening. In fact, if anything, my mental state got worse, not better, as time went on; I couldn't even look at a photo of Jimi without feeling as if I'd been punched in the gut, and the mere thought of trying to listen to any of his music made me literally, physically ill. I kept telling myself that it was normal and natural to feel so grief-stricken about losing someone who meant as much to me as he did, and especially when the loss was so sudden and unexpected on top of it. Time is the surest healer, I reasoned, and eventually things would begin to get easier--but as the days continued to pile up, I couldn't seem to find even a shred of additional peace. I was becoming more and more restless and unhappy, certain that something far more than the obvious was wrong, yet I couldn't seem to figure out exactly what was going on, or why, and for a while, the whole thing just seemed completely hopeless.
As September neared its end, however, I experienced a string of... well, I suppose you could call them coincidences, or perhaps the better term would be little pieces of synchronicity.
Heaven only knows how much I'm missing you
Knowing I had heaven in my hands
And there will be tears...
The Bee Gees
There were three of them altogether, all happening within the space of just a few days, and... well. Maybe I'm too much of a mystic, and seeing connections where there are none, but I just can't bring myself to believe that any of what happened was due to random chance.
I've written elsewhere on the site about why I have no desire to sign up for an account at Facebook, but I do make regular visits to certain pages there where the content is public. Before Jimi's passing, I had followed his own FB, in fact, but then he switched it over to where you had to be logged in to see anything. After that, I made do with Survivor's band page to keep up with the news, but on the 20th, some impulse made me decide to look up someone on FB that for whatever reason I had never gotten around to seeking out before: Jim Peterik. I found the link for his official page easily enough via Google, and when I followed it, this was the top post. It had been put up just a couple of hours before my visit, and I'm not ashamed to say that reading it made me completely break down. I mean, I'd been doing plenty of crying even before that, but seriously, I just sat at my computer and sobbed for a good ten minutes or more. I've said for a long while that JP is an amazing songwriter--one of the best who ever lived in my personal estimation. So to have him articulate so exactly what I (and probably everyone else who knew and loved Jimi) was going through just then, caught between the need to mourn such a tremendous loss and the knowledge that he himself would have wanted us all to pick up the pieces and carry on with our lives... well, if I'd been in the same room with JP in that moment, I probably would have kissed him. (And I might still do it, should I ever get the chance to meet him in person!)
While those lyrics lingered in my thoughts, however, the struggle that had been going on inside me was not yet over--and it came to a kind of flash-point three days later, on the 23rd. That was when a large public memorial service was to be held for Jimi in Memphis, and I had known, from the moment it was announced, that I would not be able to attend myself. Without going into detail, I've not been feeling at my best in a physical sense for some few weeks now (for reasons unrelated to Jimi's passing; the issues actually started well before that happened) and my sleep rhythms in particular are still very disrupted and uncertain. Trying to make travel plans on short notice was, therefore, just not a good idea, but I initially consoled myself with the thought that a very dear friend of mine was planning on going. It wouldn't be as good as being there myself, of course, but she and I had very, very similar feelings about Jimi, and I felt that having her there would make it easier for me to at least attend in spirit.
At the last minute, though, she had to cancel her trip because of conflicts with her work schedule. So that day turned out to be much more difficult for me emotionally than I had anticipated, but the same evening, the second bit of synchronicity came to pass.
Remembering times gone by
Promises we once made
What are the reasons why
Nothing stays the same...
My husband had spent the day out of town; he had a training class to attend for his job, which was being given in a city an hour's drive north of where we live, much further away than his normal commute. So he was later in getting home than usual, too, but almost as soon as he came inside, he started telling me about how he had seen something really pretty and unusual while he'd been driving back from his class. The road he had taken to come home runs almost straight north-south, parallel to the Rockies, and apparently there was one little rain cloud coming down off the foothills as he passed. The rest of the sky was more or less clear, and since it was evening, everything was backlit by the sun as it was setting toward the mountains. The combination of the sun angle and that one cloud cast what he described as the brightest, most brilliant rainbow he'd ever seen in all his life, and while he wasn't able to get a picture or anything... that was okay. I would have been very happy to have seen it for myself, of course, the same way I would have felt better if either I or my friend had been able to go to the memorial service. But the simple fact that this bit of incredible beauty had appeared so close to home, to someone who made sure that knowledge of it got back to me even if I didn't actually witness it with my own eyes, AND on the very same day when I was pretty depressed about not being able to say my goodbyes in person... well, let's just say I chose to take it as something rather more than a simple atmospheric phenomenon.
In hindsight, I think something was beginning to change, even then--a crack was starting to appear in the wall I'd been so relentlessly banging my head against, so to speak. But it was only a crack; the wall had not yet crumbled. That took until the next day, when I went out to run some errands.
I didn't really want to do so, just to note. I was still not sleeping well, so I was tired and out of sorts, and all I really wanted was to be left alone with my grief; I resented the need to go out and deal with the world and all its strangers. But we were low on groceries, and given that the eating plan I'm currently following is most of what's lent me strength enough to survive the last month with my sanity more or less intact, like it or not, I had to go. And, since I was out anyway, I decided to make one other stop besides the natural-foods market where I do most of our shopping, and it was while I was inside that other store that the third and most significant piece of synchronicity occurred. It was a place where music is always playing over the PA system, and I probably wouldn't have paid it a whole lot of mind except that when I first went in, the song that was on was a really obscure 80's-era tune that I don't think I've EVER heard played in a public venue before.
That wasn't the synchronistic part, though; that happened just as I was finishing up my business and getting ready to leave. Another song I recognized came on--and no, it wasn't Survivor, or any of Jimi's solo work, or anything like that. It was actually something I remembered hearing on the radio back when I was in high school, a tune called "Masterpiece" by the band Atlantic Starr. I had actually bought a copy as a cassette single when it was new (anyone else remember those?) but I hadn't thought about it, heard it played, or deliberately put it on to listen to myself in ages. When I heard it in the store, though, there was one lyric that just... I can't even say it hit me like a ton of bricks, because it didn't. In fact, it was noteworthy partly BECAUSE it didn't bash into me the way so many other things have since Jimi's passing; instead, it wrapped itself around my poor battered heart with all the same warmth and gentleness as one of Himself's famous hugs, and the feeling stayed with me long after I'd finished up my errands and come home. Perhaps if I write that lyric out, you'll get some sense of why:
Sometimes I wonder what I'd be
Had I not found you
A lost and lonely soul, this world
Could show me nothing new
But now my life's a canvas
Painted with your love
And it will always be
And now I see...
Somehow, in all the shock and emotional chaos that followed Jimi's passing, I had ended up unconsciously equating the concepts of "acceptance" and "moving on" with "forgetting." Some part of me was going on the assumption that, if he himself was no longer with us, then it wasn't right to try and hold onto anything connected to him, either--and something about hearing those lyrics finally brought me to full conscious awareness, not only of the assumption itself, but of how incredibly foolish it was. I can't just surgically remove Jimi from my life; I've been his fan and supporter for a good ten years now, and that's left marks upon me that nothing can erase, not even death. My interest in him and his music brought so many good things into my life--not just the contact I had directly with him, wonderful as that was, but friends I might not otherwise have met, skills I probably wouldn't have bothered to learn, personal triumphs that likely would have gone unrealized. Granted, he wasn't directly responsible for all or even most of that, but he was still the catalyst, the inspiration, the incentive I needed to get up and take a shot at stuff I would never have found the courage to even think about on my own. So in a very real sense, my life truly is "a canvas, painted with your love." I cared about him so deeply, and for so many different reasons, that the feeling has become an integral part of who I am as a person--and trying to somehow extinguish it would have pretty much the same effect as ripping out a vital organ.
And as soon as I arrived at that one simple truth, I felt something inside me... unclench.
Where are you now?
Are you far away from here?
I don't think so, I think you're here
Taking our tears away...
Now, don't misunderstand my meaning; it's not that I don't still grieve for him, very deeply, or that the pain has all gone away. Believe me, both of those things are still very much with me, and probably will be for a long, long while to come. I've cried numerous times while I've been writing all this, in fact, and I suspect that there will be many, many more tears shed before all is said and done. But at least now those tears feel like they're actually DOING something; before, I was just stuck in this terrible dark place, lost and alone with no way out, and nothing I did made the least bit of difference. Now, though, I know in my heart of hearts that I don't have to stop loving Jimi, just because he's passed on to the next phase of the journey that we'll all be taking, sooner or later. And that helps; it doesn't fix things, of course, but it surely does make them seem a whole lot more bearable. I can't claim to have fully made peace with the situation yet, but that seems like a much more realistic goal now, and not something that will always be beyond my reach.
So all of you out there reading can go right ahead and laugh at me for being a credulous, sentimental idiot if you want; everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and I'm quite well aware that I view life and the world through a rather unique lens, to put it mildly. For my own part, though--and to borrow a line from our dear, departed lead singer--"I believe in love, and nothing's gonna tear me down." There's a lot of stuff in this world that I don't need to be able to weigh or measure, or to have anyone else's validation to accept as true, and I daresay I've had enough firsthand experience with Jimi to recognize all that familiar, beloved warmth of spirit of his in an instant. Reaching out from the Other Side to give one bereaved fan just enough of a nudge to stop her from tearing herself apart would be completely in character for him, and particularly since it came through the medium of what was always his first and greatest passion--music.
So Jimi, since it's obvious you're still listening: Thanks. For giving me the hand up when I really needed it, and for... well, for everything. For being who you were, and sharing yourself and your talent so generously; I was always a little afraid of taking advantage when I saw you in person, but even when I was extra-careful not to ask for anything beyond an autograph and a photo, you always gave me so much more. Every smile, every spontaneous hug, the many sincere compliments you paid me--all of those things were precious, priceless gifts, and believe me, I treasured them accordingly. Even the times when I was left blushing and groping futilely for a witty comeback to something you'd said felt special; your sense of humor and all the good-natured mischief that went with it were some of your very best qualities, and occasionally getting zinged by them was just part of the experience.
Really, simply being in the same room with you was like standing in a fall of brilliant sunshine, and seeing the way your eyes lit up whenever you recognized and remembered me was one of the purest pleasures I've ever known. It meant so very much that someone like you could treat someone like me as a friend, rather than a nuisance or even just one more face in the crowd. And as sad as it is that the cover is about to close on this particular chapter of my life, I can say without hesitation that I wouldn't have missed out on the last ten years for the world.
'Cause I'm on your side, and I still care
I may have died but I've gone nowhere
Just think of me, and I'll be there...
I'm going to have one hell of a time figuring out what to do with myself from here on out, given that I can't exactly plan my summers around your tour schedule any longer, but I suppose something will come up--or maybe if I pay close enough attention, I'll get another little brush of your angel's wings to send me in the right direction. (That would be really nice, actually!) I know I already miss you something awful, but at least I have my memories. And the legacy of your music, too--you certainly left us all with an abundance of that. It may be a little while yet before I'll be able to do much listening; the reminder of what's been lost is still a bit too sharp. But that will change in due course, I'm sure--time does heal a great many things, and I very much doubt I could stay away forever.
Oh, and just to mention, while I'm here: It may not be as impressive a monument as a pyramid or cathedral, but I promise that your Wing will remain here at C&S for as long as I have the wherewithal to pay for web-space and the faculties to keep it maintained. You affected and enriched the lives of far too many people to be in any serious danger of being forgotten, but for those who weren't lucky enough to meet and know you while you were here, I hope my writings and photos will continue to convey some small, dim sense of what an exceptionally special person you were.
And when the time finally comes for me to make my own journey to the Summerland... well, I don't think I'll be afraid. How could I, when I already know that you're waiting there, alongside everyone else I've ever loved and lost, ready to greet me with a big grin and a bigger hug just like you always did at shows? So until then, rest well, and enjoy yourself; I expect you're rocking out on the Elysian fields even as we speak. I can't imagine your voice and your talent being in any less demand there than they ever were here--and for you, I seriously doubt that anyplace would qualify as "paradise" if it didn't have a stage.
All my love, sweetie--always.
--Lisa, C&S Webmistress
30 September, 2014
But I'm not gonna let you down
Darlin', wait and see
And between now and then
Till I see you again
I'll be loving you