I See Dead People

by gillis

Songs are like bookmarks for the stories in my life and I always have a few songs that seem to highlight what I’m thinking about or experiencing. I can’t be alone in this, I mean, didn’t we all make a thousand mixed tapes for each other back in the day? Or was that just me? The most recent song on my repeat has been the Mumford and Sons song, “Beloved.” It’s a song about saying goodbye to someone who’s dying. At least I think it’s a song about saying goodbye to someone who’s dying. I’ve been known to misinterpret things like song lyrics, allegorical stories, poems, baking recipes, romantic overtures, plans to split bills, driving directions, and financial advice. However, I do truly think this song refers to saying goodbye to someone who is dying though because the speaker says things like, “before you leave, you must know you are beloved.” That sounds pretty straightforward to me. If it means something else, like someone is going off to jail, you can just keep that information to yourself. Don’t wreck this for me.

What is remarkable to me about this song is how beautifully uplifting I find it. I will crank this tune in my car and sing along to it, often with tears streaming down my face, and still, I will want to hear it again and pump my figurative fist to it while the tears, and occasionally the snot, remind me that I’m alive and I still get to feel things about the people I love, alive and dead. I find it incredibly satisfying and moving to listen to, and for some reason, it has become my musical mantra. I always have one going on. I have a real need to lay claim to a song that pumps me up for the work day because teaching is emotionally and spiritually grueling a lot of the time, and I want to be full of life and purpose when I show up to do it. It’s probably a little odd that I’ve latched onto this particular song for the purpose of pumping me up for a workday, but I have. At least for now.

When I listen to the song, I picture those people whom I love and have lost, and also those I know I will lose in the near future. What can I say? I prepare myself for the losing of loved ones. Maybe that makes me strange. I picture these people all so clearly and dearly that it moves me to sing about the need to let them know they are loved. And then I think a little bit about how beautifully sad it is that we are all these fragments of life intersecting with one another for such a brief time. How lines of people can be stretched out, never knowing one another past one or two generations. How we want to share what we know of loved ones gone with those who’ve just arrived in order to pass the stories along. How a part of us dies with each loved one who dies because the people we were when we were with them can’t really exist with anyone else. The stories we shared with them belong to the museums we keep in our hearts, and they aren’t really for sharing with others. We can share the surface parts of those stories, but the real stories, the truth of the truth of them, can’t be shared with other people. Trying to do so will only make us feel more alone.

On a day like today, when spring is in the air, what more could one ask for than an anthem about love and loss?