The only thing I know how to do is write. Sometimes I write too much. Sometimes I don’t write enough. Sometimes I don’t write when I should. Tonight, I’m just writing.
The news of John Prine dying broke my heart wide open tonight. Perhaps it wasn’t just the news of his passing that broke my heart wide open, because I reckon I’ve been holding on to a lot of worry and fear without saying it out loud. My heart was heavy.
Heavy from seeing photos of kiddos with masks on.
Heavy from my 4-year-old reminding me how we can’t touch people or be with people.
Heavy from yelling at my kids because I was inconvenienced or impatient or swimming in uncertainty of how to do this.
Heavy from thinking about the stress already on our community and how that stress is compounded with new complexities and strains.
My heart has been trying to stay focused – looking for the helpers, trying to see the light, keeping my head above water, and making the best decisions I possibly can when I truly don’t what the best options are.
Heavy from watching the videos of humanity clapping as first responders change shifts in NYC. Watching first responders show up EVERY day. Thinking about the families of first responders.
Fumbling through e-learning while wondering on a larger level why we had been running in a hamster wheel all this time: Rushing through breakfast so we could get out of the house on time, drop offs, work work work, pick ups, running late, traffic, rarely having dinner together, rushing around being busy, answering emails, screen time, homework, baths, and then sleep.
John Prine died and I finally cried. Maybe it broke my heart because his songs have shaped my world – the tough times, the good times, and all the in between. It resonated with me and reached me in ways that other music never could. And here we are going through the strangest, heaviest, scariest time and he dies.
The same man that told us to blow up our tvs and throw away our papers, move to the country and get us a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, and try to find Jesus on our own.
I listened to his songs and felt like I could see the world a little clearer when he explained it. I guess that’s what I need most right now – to see all of “this” clearer and I’d trust him to give it to me straight.
Here I sat tonight worried about things I can’t control. I’m also very angry for reasons I won’t explain here, but there are systems and structures that have NEVER been in place to help people in our communities. The pandemic just exposes it even more, but it has always been there. In this situation it is hard to even begin to help anyone for fear you’d hurt them by being too close, leaving a fingerprint, or comforting them.
I was on a walk the other morning and a neighbor opened her trunk and her groceries fell out and began rolling down her driveway. My first instinct was to run to her and help pick it all up because I could tell she just needed someone to DO that for her in that moment. So, I started towards her and I said, “I want to help you so bad, but I can’t pick up the items. I’m afraid I will get you sick.” She nodded and began picking up her groceries one by one. I kept walking, slowly taking in what just happened and thinking it was all make believe.
Do you do that? Wake up and wonder if this is all a weird movie we are all in?
Anyway, I am scared of what all this means. I’m trying to keep my head focused. I’m trying to stay positive. The problem is, when someone like John Prine dies, it forces me to feel that loss. And then I think about NYC and all of the families around the country who can’t be with their loved ones while they die. I don’t know how we as people physically do that. I kind of need a John Prine song to explain how this happens and what all this means moving forward.
But he’s gone.
And as much as we all pretend everything is okay, we all really know it isn’t. Tomorrow I will do it again – I’ll be brave. Especially for my kids who have no context or understanding why they have been ripped away from teachers who love them, friends who mean so much to them, and family they can’t hug or visit. I haven’t even truly reconciled any of it, so how can two young people do it?
But tonight while they sleep, I need to be really sad that John Prine died. I’m sad for what it represents moving forward and the overall loss it represents and realizing that he is one of MANY losses that I can’t even begin to comprehend. I hope I grow and learn from all this while having my John Prine records on repeat as I go.
I’m thankful tonight for his art and humanity and for creating the kind of music that could reach people like me when we needed it most. I reckon that’s happening now. You see, he’s always come through for me.