The Cave

It’s Sunday, February 13th, 2011.  Exactly four weeks after Charlie went to heaven.  The intensity and rawness of our grief is frightening.  Vanessa, Czerwinski, and myself are watching The Grammy’s on a cold and snowy night.  (For the record, I’m not a big music guy and I don’t like award shows.  But Czer is a music buff and Vanessa likes the dresses.)  I’m sitting on the floor silently weeping as I flip through a photo album filled with pictures of Charlie when I hear a couple of chords of a guitar start a catchy tune. I look up at the tv and see four hipster type dudes playing banjos, guitars, and a piano.  I ask Czer, “Tim Tebow is in a band too?  Is there anything this guy can’t do?”  Then he starts singing along with the slow pace of the melody.

“It’s empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you’ve left behind”

What the. . .?  Is Tebow’s doppelganger talking to me?  It’s not empty in the valley of my heart b/c there is no valley.  There is no heart.  It was ripped out four weeks ago.  Will the sun ever rise for me again?  I have tons of fears and probably more faults.  Will I ever be able to leave them behind?

“The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat”

Um, ok, Tebow.  Lost me here a little.  I am meat-eater, yes.  You may have seen the same but you definitely do not know my defeat.  (And I hope you never do.)

“But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck”

Holy shit, Tebow.  You really are talking to me.  More than anything right now, I NEED hope.  I have to hold onto hope.  (I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think about suicide in those first few weeks.  I thought about going out to the garage and tying a noose around my neck.  But the thought of putting Vanessa through even more pain and cheating Danny out of having a father kept me out of there.  Those were some really dark days.  Death seriously sounded like a sweet release.  Please rest easy.  I haven’t come close to thinking like that since.)

“And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again”

I’m picking up what you’re laying down.  You’re God damn right I’ll find strength in pain.  I will change my ways.  I’ll know my name if it’s called again but, please, don’t call it again.  Losing one son is more than enough.

These hipsters are really getting into it as the song picks up the pace.  You can tell these guys are passionate about this song.  I’m now standing up and have turned the volume up.

“Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I’ll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind”

I do have other things to fill my time.  I have Danno and Vanessa and they need me now more than ever.  What are we taking?  I don’t know.  Whatever.  You can have it.  But please let me at the truth.  My mind, heart, and soul all need to be refreshed.  In a bad way.

“So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears”

Tie me to that post.  I’ll sacrifice myself if it’ll help Vanessa in any way.  I can’t see widows or orphans but I see a Mom devastated from the death of her little boy through my tears.  (Did you ever notice that there is no title for a parent who has lost a child?  Neither did I until I became one.)  Faults and fears.  I have plenty of both.

These guys are now pounding their instruments as the pace of the music matches their aggressiveness.  My heart is racing along with the beat.  I can feel my adrenaline pumping.  Tears are welling up in my eyes.  I’m inching closer to the tv as Tebow and the boys take a deep breath and belt out,

“But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again”

The tears are now running down my cheek.  Nothing in the last four weeks has moved my emotional ticker like this song has in the last two minutes. Then the music abruptly slows down and Tebow gently sings,

“So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s hand”

I need to come out of this cave.  The walls are coming down on me.  The world, my world, is upside down.  I definitely have a better understanding of dependence considering the maker’s hand decided it was time to take Charlie away from me.

The piano lays down a spine tingling beat and the other instruments start back up.  Tebow, who now seems like he’s talking for me instead of at me, taunts the darkness and sadness that has consumed me by singing,

“So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say”

Go ahead darkness.  Sing all you want b/c I will not hear what you have to say.  The pace of the music is quickly accelerating again.  The guys join Tebow as he yells,

“Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be”

I do need freedom from the darkness and I needed it yesterday.  This is not how I thought my life was meant to be but it IS my life.  And I need to figure out how to live it.

These hipsters are now bashing their instruments.  It seriously looks like they’re going to break them.  They’re banging their heads as the pace of the music frenetically keeps getting faster.  Four more guys with horns move in behind them.  I scream to Czer in disbelief, “Fucking horns too?!?”  I’m now shaking and flat out crying as I feel the song approach it’s climax.  Tebow and his hipster buddies are now pounding their instruments as they’re letting out a primal yet melodic wail as if the darkness was being expunged from their bodies through their voices.  The horns start blaring.  Goosebumps cover my body.  The boys all take one last huge breath and scream out,

“And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again”

Sing it boys!!  I WILL hold on hope.  I WILL NOT choke on that noose around my neck.  I WILL change my ways.  I WILL find strength in pain.  I fucking have to.  There is no other option.  Vanessa and Dan are depending on me.  I WILL honor Charlie by using that strength to live my life as it’s meant to be.  I WILL never forget you Charlie.  I miss you.  I love you.

(I’m not a big music guy.  I know so little about music that snobby music types don’t even bother calling me a poser.  And if they do, they can suck it.  They need to get over themselves.  All I know about music is this:  If I like a song, I listen to it constantly.  I probably listened to this song close to 20 times a day for at least two months.  While on the train I’d put it on repeat and fight the tears back as I immersed myself into the rhythm and lyrics.  I’ve never been moved by a song as much as I was by this one.  Watching them get on the biggest stage of their lives and nail this song was amazing.  I needed something to rally behind and these English hipsters gave it to me.  If I could buy these guys a shot of Jameson and tell them how much it helped me I would.  Here’s a link to the song “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons.  And no, Tim Tebow is not the lead singer.)

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2 thoughts on “The Cave

  1. Hi, I found your blog through the Grieving Father’s Project. My name is John and my daughter Allison died almost a month before Charlie. I mention this because of the music reference. Allison was 24 when she passed, but she enjoyed music. She was in choirs from elementary to high school, the same as myself although I played trumpet. But that’s neither here nor there.

    I’m writing because of the intensity of your reaction to the music of Mumford and Sons. I listened to the video but I didn’t quite get the same reaction you did, perhaps because so much time has passed. However, there is a song by Trace Adkins called “Just Fishin'”…you can hear the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IheODRwalEw

    It talks about a father/daughter relationship (could easily be a father/son relationship) where the daughter thinks they’re just going fishing, but in fact they’re making memories, for him, but especially for her. I’d like to believe that I did that for Allison in some way, but now I’ll never know for sure. I break into tears every single time I hear it.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that music is a powerful thing, given the right melody and lyric. For me, it’s a way to release some of the tension I feel at times, but also to reminisce about the good times we had together.

    Sorry about the rambling, I can’t seem to put two thoughts together at the moment, so I’ll just thank you for writing this and sharing your thoughts and emotions because believe it or not, it helps me in ways you can’t even imagine.

    John Wolfe
    Sanger, Texas

    • John,

      I am sorry that you are having to endure the same heartbreak as most of the other visitors to the Grieving Dad’s Project website. My wife and I often ask each other how much harder it would be had Charlie lived longer before dying and I can’t honestly answer that question b/c we were only given two years and ten months. All I know is that we hurt.

      I have heard “Just Fisihin” before and think it’s a beautiful song. “The Cave” caught me at the right place and the right time. As I wrote in my post, it moved me in ways a song never has before. I’ve listened to their entire album and think they’re spectacular. (I know that I am definitely biased.) As you mentioned, given the right melody and lyric, music can be a powerful outlet for emotions and tension. I am sure that “Just Fishin” shakes you to your core because of the memories that Trace speaks of in the song. I am also sure that Allison cherished those memories more than you know and it was always more than “Just Fishin” for her. It was time with her Daddy. And she loved every second of it.

      Thanks for reaching out to me and sharing your feelings. I know it can be difficult to do. I am honored to know that I’ve helped you, even if just a little, during this most trying time of your life. Please do not hesitate to keep in touch.

      Bryan Tobin
      Park Ridge, IL

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