It was around this time of year 2 years ago that I heard that my beautiful best friend from highschool had died. She left 2 little children that she loved with all her heart, and a family that missed her very much.
It was very hard to bear, and still is. We were friends since grade 8, which was a long time. Longer than some marriages. We were like sisters. As we grew older, we each went our own paths through life but over the years, we'd reconnect and it would be like no time had passed at all. She lived in a different province and had a family and got busy with that, I got busy with school and work and all the while, building a music career.
We didn't always get along, didn't always see eye to eye on things but we always loved each other. We'd sometimes go many months or even a year without touching base, but always around the holidays, I'd get a call or I'd send her a long email. We'd send each other little emails from time to time telling each other how much we believed in each other and other silly little things, or share something helpful we'd learned about.
Dealing with her death was difficult. It was like losing a sister, someone I knew so well. I fully admit to using semi-denial to manage to get through each day and get through my grief. It was just too painful to deal with in one big dose. I didn't want to talk about it and still don't really. Every day was peppered with little holes that marked my friend's absence. You don't even realize the smallest things that are missing or that remind you of that person. Just being in Victoria was hard, remembering places we used to go or things we did together. The loss though goes forward in time too, as now there was no one to mark the changes in our lives, the places we'd been and how far we'd come, no one to love me just as she loved me. She was irreplaceable. Her gift of love for me was precious and meant so much to me. She was a very special person and I learned a lot from her.
Even on tour, we'd stay at her house when we passed through her town. She loved my music and supported me in all the creative projects I would do. She was the first to buy a cd, drive to another town to see my shows, take in all my band mates and feed us on tours, or admire my artwork or tell me how awesome I was or even how jealous she was of my talent and how she wanted to see me shine. She never wanted me to give up or get down on myself.
I had been jamming on a song around the time of my friend's death, our band worked on the song for a while. I started roughing out lyrics, but was never quite wanting to set them down and finalize them - they were never just right. At some point, it came to me that they were about her and I, about our friendship. It wasn't a sad song, it was a song about friendship that lasts regardless of obstacles. Of sharing a journey together, even though miles apart. The music wasn't sad either - it was a feeling of standing up and feeling the power of what was positive in the face of pain and grief.
It was also a very simple song. And how I agonized over the words to get them to be just the right ones to say what I meant to say! It's much easier to write novels of pain, than to write 8 lines that speak to your heart.
Last summer, we were going into the studio, and I still didn't have the words finished. I would wing them every time we performed the song because I didn't want to set them in stone. I simply had too many words and finding the ones I wanted to say most was very hard. Every time I tried to work with the words, I would get really emotional and would end up crying my heart out over my friend, and would just end up with more words. I didn't have them done right up to the day of recording in the studio. I had worked and agonized over them - and all I could do was sit and cry reading them. I sat helpless in the studio thinking that I might have to give up doing the song that day and how I really didn't want to give up on the song, but I was at a loss. Our producer, Michael, had me read all the words to him that I had. I didn't think it would be so hard. Of course, it started me crying again, and I was thinking no one will understand why I'm a basket case over a simple song. But somehow it mattered. And Michael and the rest of the band totally understood and were patient with me, and sat there in support of me till I got it. I read the words aloud and Michael helped me see what lines mattered most and really helped me get to the heart of it. He sat and listened to what I was saying with my heart and read it back to me so I could hear it.
And then I stopped crying. For 2 years, I'd cried every time I had to figure out the lyrics for the song. As soon as they felt right, I stopped crying. I walked out onto the studio floor and sang the song and it felt good to finally say just what I wanted to say.
Putting my pain, love, humour, friendship and gratitude for my friend into the container that is the song has helped me grieve. I listen and my heart feels heard, and the simplicity doesn't detract from the depth of my grief and despair, but lifts me up and reminds me of the essence of what matters. It's a happier song, as my friend liked upbeat things. It's also a healing song. A song that cuts beyond death and obstacles to what lasts longer, friendship and love.
Whenever I perform this song, it's like I have my friend with me for a little while. When it gets heard, it's like a little of her spirit and the spirit of true friendship can go out and add a little positivity to the world.
Down this lonely road
that we took to find our way home
you to prairie fields of gold
me, to the wild west coast
we didn't always get along
you'd laugh, said 'put that in a song'
so I did so everyone can see
just what you mean to me
you were so real
you were unrealized
There comes a time in every life
when we look back and see the signs
never thought you'd get so far
across that highway of stars
you just wanted me to shine
you're my trusty satellite
on the last day of my life
I'll ride with you into that good night
you were so real
you were unrealized
you were surreal
you were unrealized
released April 6, 2012
Produced by Michael Jack
Recorded by Michael Jack @ Phase One Audio Group
and Dynamic Drive Studios, Toronto, Ont.
Phase One assistant: Mike Ho.
All songs edited and mixed by Michael Jack @ the Radio Room, Barrie, Ont.
all rights reserved