For a Dancer: thoughts about life, death and dreams.

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

Jackson Browne penned some of the most beautiful and profound lyrics ever written in the song For a Dancer, a song that he wrote about a dear friend of his who passed away too early in life, and a song that is not only a personal favorite of mine, but clearly a favorite of a large number of Jackson’s loyal fans.

 I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
’cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(there’s nothing you can do about it anyway)

As you get older in life, unfortunately, you are forced to think more and more about the cycle of life and death and where you currently reside in that process.  As parents and the older generations of your family move on, you seemingly get closer and closer to the roots (or leaves depending on how you draw it) of your family tree.  I don’t particularly like that!  It’s comforting to me to have that umbrella of older more experienced folks hovering over me, even if they are not really significantly involved in my day-to-day life anymore.

 Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours
Another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

I read a beautiful tribute today to a passed loved one, written by a friend of mine, Chris, and posted on Facebook.  In this tribute Chris speaks of an older brother, Jay, who was lost to a freak traffic accident twenty-five years ago.  Chris’ brother was only 22 years old at the time.  One can only imagine how devastating that must be to a family to lose someone in the prime of their life, but Chris talked about memories and keeping his brother’s spirit alive.  Chris also talked about hearing the lyrics from a John Mayer song for the first time on the most recent anniversary of his brother’s death:

When you’re dreaming with a broken heart, then waking up can be the hardest part.”

Chris says, “Dreams about Jay are treasured.  And like the song says, when they happen, waking up is the hardest part.  For each time I dreamed about him, I never wanted it to end.”

I understand that feeling.

I lost my mother to cancer in 2002 when she was only sixty years young.  A brutally aggressive brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, had taken her from us just seven months and two brain surgeries after her initial diagnosis.  We held a nice reception at the Swan Hotel Bar in Lambertville, New Jersey, after her funeral services and in good family fashion had a lot of fun, a few too many drinks and for a short time we were able to forget about the ceremony we had all just cried through.  Towards the end of the reception I remember standing outside the bar with a few of us and a close family friend, Jon, talked about dreams he would have about his mother, who had passed several years earlier, and how those dreams always seemed to correspond with something that was going on in his life at the time.

 Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(the world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

I dreamed about my Mom a lot after her passing.  Although I am not a spiritual person, I always believed that was her way of trying to communicate with me and let me know everything was going to be okay.  When I had problems or stressors in my life I would have dreams that included my Mom that would somehow help me find the answers to whatever was plaguing me.  Like Chris, I treasured those dreams.  It was so real at the time and I too never wanted it to end.  Of course they always do, and waking up I would always crave the memories and try to piece together the scattered images that quickly fade when one wakes from a deep sleep.

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know 

I see Mom in my dreams much less frequently anymore.  That makes me sad, but one cannot control what goes on in one’s mind when the lights are out and the REM sleep takes over.  Although I have lots of photographs of my Mom to remind me how she looked, I have a hard time now remembering what her voice sounded like.  It’s all just a function of time, of course.  As another close friend said to me around the time of my Mom’s death, “it gets easier every day.”  I hate to think it gets easier because it makes me think I am forgetting, but in reality it does.  I believe our loved ones (especially my Mom) wouldn’t want us sitting around mourning them for eternity.  They would want us to keep them alive in spirit and in memories and in photographs, but they would also want us to move on, to continue enjoying our beautiful lives and to make the most of every living day, both when we are awake… and in our dreams.


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4 responses to “For a Dancer: thoughts about life, death and dreams.

  1. Kim Warner

    First time I discovered your blogspot. Wonderful idea to share that wonderfully sensitive side of you that I know, but that is sometimes hidden from everyday view.
    I miss your Mom terribly. As I sit in Boundary Waters eating a sandwich and sipping a latte, I feel I’m not alone…As the tune, “When a heart breaks, it don’t break even” drifts through the air I am reminded of the rift your Mom’s loss made in all of our hearts. Fall is here…it’s time to go antiquing, wine tasting and remember the best of such a great woman.
    Love you, Man

  2. Chris

    Steve – I’m glad my words inspired you to share yours. This was my favorite part: “As parents and the older generations of your family move on, you seemingly get closer and closer to the roots (or leaves depending on how you draw it) of your family tree. I don’t particularly like that! It’s comforting to me to have that umbrella of older more experienced folks hovering over me, even if they are not really significantly involved in my day-to-day life anymore.”

    I hope your writing was as healing for you as it was for me. I’m sure you’re mom has been smiling since you wrote that. That should warm your heart and get your weekend off to a great start! (hey that rhymed… now i’m a poet too!)

  3. Emily Wingert

    Dear Steve, Although we have never met, Chris has told me and shared with me his friendship with you. Thanks you for your kind words to Chris and our family and for sharing your ???is it blog?? with the words to your song.
    and your thoughts. Yes, loosing your Mother at her young age is devastating for all in your family and my heart goes out to you as you continue your struggle of acceptance. In my struggle with grief God did send Jay to plant a kiss on my check during one of my most difficult times. That, in itself, started the long long road to healing and a memory I have had to recall many many times when my faith was and does waiver. Although dreams were a huge part of my sons grieving process it was totally absent for years, for me. Another gift I feel God gave me to protect my heart. There are times, and I’m sure you have or had experienced it, when I could think so deeply on my son Jay that it was as though this soul actually entered my body and I became him for a short period of time. It was like I was in a trance. I am not nearly as articulate as Chris nor can I express my feelings as well as you, so let me just say how much I appreciate your reaching out to Chris in such an understanding way. Sincerely, Mom Wingert PS: How proud your Mom would be to know how sweetly you speak of her and go on missing her – as you should and can’t help.

  4. littledubs

    Hi Emily, thanks for the nice reply and for taking the time to read this and for sharing your very personal experiences about the grieving process. Chris and I have known each other for quite some time now, probably going on about 15 or so years, and although we only occassionally see each other at trade shows or if he happens to be traveling in my area, I have always been fond of him as a friend and I have a lot or respect for the company he has built with his brothers. They clearly must have had some strong and solid support and guidance from family when they started their business out of mom and dads house!!

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