Cancer is an evil thing. It sneaks up on you, striking when you least expect it. No matter how strong or young you are, cancer is often stronger. My brother was very young and very strong. He fought the disease for four years. I thought he’d beaten it. But it surprised us all, and we said goodbye very suddenly.
His death affected our family deeply, and everyone coped in different ways.
As for me, I was lost for a while. I was in a dark place. I was very insecure back then, and never was comfortable with myself… hating what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I couldn’t deal with the reality of his death. So I practiced being someone I wasn’t.
Now, I always loved the arts, and I threw myself into it even more. It was a way to run away from the pain of his loss, the pain my family was feeling… frankly, the pain of everything. I NEEDED to run away.
So, I did. I was beyond excited when I got cast in a show out of town. At that time, I lived in California, and my summer gig was up in Michigan at a beautiful place called Boyne Highlands. This would be my first time moving away from home. My first great adventure. My first escape. I packed up my Mom’s minivan and set out across the country.
I spent the summer of 1989 living in a bubble of sorts. There we were, sixteen young adults living in paradise. It would have been easy – even natural – to get lost in all of the beauty of Northern Michigan. Life at a golf resort. Learning to bartend. The music.
Instead, in the summer of 1989, I dealt with the after effects of my brother’s death. I met someone who helped me believe for the first time that I was beautiful. I learned to forgive people who had hurt me long ago. And as I laid on the greens at the 7th hole and looked at the stars, I learned to be brave. 1989 taught me that the world is not always kind, but that’s a part of life. And in the background, always on the radio, was Don Henley’s “The End of the Innocence.”
The song and I met at the intersection of my youth and my adulthood.
Written by Bruce Hornsby and Henley, it went to #8 on the charts. It is #1 in my heart.
“Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin’ by
But “happily ever after” fails
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly
But I know a place where we can go
That’s still untouched by men
We’ll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence…”
Whenever I hear that song, I am again lying on the cool grass in Northern Michigan… letting go of illusions, remembering my brother, remembering those people, remembering the joy. Knowing life will never be the same again and knowing that’s okay.
In 2013, almost 25 years later, I attended a leadership event.
Who played that night? Bruce Hornsby.
He sang “The End of the Innocence.”
I sat in the audience with tears streaming down my face, missing those I’d lost, loving them. I gave thanks for the blessings in my life today, and knew just how fragile they are.
Here’s a link to the video from that night: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151365340347478&l=872927215193903441
These moments are fleeting. Don’t miss them.
This blog post is part of the weekly DPChallenge. Check it out here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/weekly-writing-challenge-music/