It’s a frigid morning in Niagara Falls and as always, I was listening to music on my phone during the ten minute walk to work; the tunes of choice were from the Broadway show that, in my daughter’s mind ranks above all others, Hamilton.
Among the songs that both entertain and enlighten me is one that never fails to pierce my heart, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”. This morning was different though. Don’t get me wrong, I was as moved as ever, but all my thoughts, my inspiration, my admiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda, coalesced into a key that unlocked the door I’ve tried to place over the seemingly-bottomless well of grief centered on my fallen brother-in-arms, Rockin’ Ronnie.
I thought of my pain, yes, but today I’ve also decided to take Lin-Manuel’s lyrics to heart. This is how the song starts…
Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control:
Who tells your story?
And here’s the part that truly set me on the road I’m on today,
But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
My friend is dead. I can’t do anything about that. It was his decision, where it stemmed from I’ll never know, but I couldn’t save him; he didn’t want that. But what do I do now? What does anyone who has ever lost someone do?
We carry on. And more than that…
We tell their story.
And so this is my suggestion to all of us dealing with waves of holiday-induced grief: don’t let the dead fade from this world, don’t let them be fated to exist only in our isolated memories.
Talk about them. To friends, family, strangers, anyone who will listen. (Though I would advise against sharing with guys in dirty trench coats who spend most of their time leaning against walls while speaking to invisible agents of shadowy government agencies.)
Write about them. On blogs like this (not that there are any blogs quite like this), “the Facebook”, even cave walls will do.
Share pictures of your time together. Come on, people, this is the age of Instagram and their ilk. One less photo of your cat as a Jedi won’t break the internet.
For the Fallen, we are the keepers of the flame, and as such, it is our duty to stoke the fires of memory occasionally. Ronnie may have died on a summer’s day that suddenly became very cold, but those of us who knew him best speak of him often, and as long as we do, Rockin’ will always be a part of the world his physical form left behind. Do the same for those you love.
I know grief isn’t so easily shelved (I still gets tears in my eyes when an especially-poignant memory of my friend rises up) but it can be channeled if you’re willing to push through.
And that’s all I have to offer, take it for what it’s worth.
See you in the lobby, kids…