Almost a year into my relationship with Kristin (the charming woman who is now my wife… thank you, Washington D.C.), we went to a concert that was part of the Nashville Pride celebration. Lindsey Hinkle opened and was amazing. Then, this fabulous lot of “Girls with Guitars” including Cheley Tackett, Tammy Fowler, and Annie Mosher (with Cathey Stamps on percussion) took the stage. They were righteously awesome. We are talking about rock-freaking-stars, and we were having a crazy great time. Then, that damn Cheley Tackett did this…
Hauntingly beautiful, right?
There I sat, next to Kristin, both of us sobered by the reminder of her Uncle Jim, whose death to cancer still hurt way too much. Suddenly, I was aware of a woman standing next to me who’d stopped to celebrate on her way back from somewhere, perhaps the restroom or the bar… I don’t even know, but her sudden being there pulled me back into my body. She smiled a knowing smile, as if she could tell from the tears streaming down my cheeks where I’d gone off to, and said something like, “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Both of my hands pressed firmly to my chest, I stammered, “I… I… I… It’s… stunning.” We’d heard it once before, at another venue, just after Jim died and on this day it was still every bit as powerful.
“Yeah… I just planned my funeral, and I’m having them play it.”
I’m not sure I spoke again. I couldn’t have said anything intelligent if I did, and just like that she moved on. I watched her glide back across the bar and sit down with her people. Two of her tablemates were a beautiful couple we’d met at a Hillary Clinton rally just a few months before, and there were many others I didn’t recognize. I could see that everyone cared a little too much that she made it back to the table, protective of her in the way you might expect people to be once you’ve planned your own funeral.
I continued to stare, certainly light years beyond anything that could remotely be considered socially acceptable, as one of the others slid a chair up next to the woman with the shaved head and funeral plans. She wove a protective arm across the back of the woman’s chair and leaned in, wrapping her up like precious cargo. Obviously, they were together. She was… The One. She’s The One who loves that woman who has just planned her own funeral. Damn.
In what can only be described as a moment of profound, but I hope understandable, narcissism, I realized that the 50 or so years that I’d only recently begun planning to spend with this incredible woman by my side, are just that, planned… they are not promised.
Nothing is promised. Nothing can be taken for granted. Not my love for this woman. Not the love she feels for me. Not the lives of my son and my daughter. Not our peace, or our freedom. Nothing… ever again.
I’ve had way too many of these wake-up calls in the last year, beautiful people dying while others fight for their lives. I feel awake, not afraid but completely awake to the gifts of love, health, and happiness that are abundant in my life today.
My invitation to you is this: let these life-changing experiences change you.
When a child dies , let it rock your world and then do something with it. When a woman you love discovers a lump in her breast, let it take your breath away and then change your diet, give money to the pink mafia, and dedicate your life to something that makes a difference in the lives of others. When cancer of the thyroid silences your friend’s beautiful singing voice… you’d better sing your damn heart out.
Cheley Tackett (www.cheleytackett.com) makes music that moves me, and Kristin and I had the pleasure of attending a release party for her new EP called “Whisper Me Slow“. We shared a table with the women from the Clinton rally, the friends of she who had decided that her funeral plans include Tackett’s “From Up Here.” I’ve kept tabs on that woman through these mutual friends’ Facebook updates, certainly some of my best-intentioned virtual stalking. Although she continues to haunt me… I hear from them that she and The One are both doing well.
Those funeral plans, it turns out, were just plans… they were also not promised, after all.
Photo Credit: Amber Beckham Photography