Thursday morning at 5:31 a.m., I received a text that woke me up.
It was from one of my best friends.
She informed me that Chris Cornell had died.
I sat up in bed and stared at that message for a good 5 minutes before it registered.
And then I just flopped myself back into my pile of pillows and sobbed.
For 20 minutes.
Isn’t it the strangest thing in the world to mourn for someone you’ve never met?
I never had a conversation with Chris.
I wasn’t lucky enough to sit at his feet while he played the guitar or sing a duet with him.
I never cooked for him or heard him laugh or baked him a batch of cookies.
But he was a musician.
And so am I.
So that is what speaks to me…what connects us.
And that man sang the soundtrack of my 20s.
Any one of his many songs can come on the radio, and I am immediately time-warped back.
And suddenly I am 24 again.
Even if just for a moment.
So to hear he is gone, it is like having part of myself die.
Part of my youth.
Part of my memories.
Perhaps that is melodramatic. And honestly, I’m okay with that.
Because it freaking hurts getting older.
But what’s the alternative?
No thank you.
Life is painful and hard.
But it’s all we have while we’re here.
Our waistlines expand and our hairlines recede and our credit lines ebb and flow.
We trade our youthful, peachy glow for wrinkles and sun spots and goose necks.
I don’t want to lose the people I love.
I don’t want to even consider a world where my parents aren’t here.
Or my sister.
Or my best friend.
And don’t even get me started on my kids.
Whenever I hear that someone has died, the first person I think about is their mother. And if she’s still living, how she must feel that her child is gone.
And the swirling vortex of pain and emptiness it must leave knowing that she’ll never see her child again.
Ah the joys of being a mother.
Everything is a ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan singing in the background.
Years ago when I worked in the emergency room as a technician, I pulled in for my shift one evening to about 30 patrol cars in the parking lot.
That could only mean one thing.
An officer had been wounded or killed.
My heart sank into my stomach.
I took a deep breath and walked into the ambulance bay, only to be greeted by Ross, another technician, who swiftly escorted me to the break room to debrief me.
It wasn’t an officer who had died.
It was an officer’s daughter…who had autism.
And she was young.
Like toddler young.
The physicians had asked that Ross intercept and inform me, because they knew I had a son with autism about that child’s same age, and that I would lose it.
And they were soooo right.
I didn’t know that family.
I had never held that sweet little girl or brushed her hair or watched her ride a bike.
But when Ross told me what happened, I sobbed.
For a half hour.
I couldn’t pull it together.
And here’s what I learned that day.
I don’t have to know you to hurt for you.
Each of you reading this blog have kids and family that I’ve perhaps never even met, but I feel like I know them at least a little bit because I’ve watched you catalogue your lives on Facebook.
And if you have lost a spouse or a parent or child or a sibling or a friend…I promise you, I’ve cried.
Because that’s who I am.
I hurt when you hurt.
I feel what you feel.
And I’m incapable of turning that off.
So when a musician dies that I’ve never met, it is good and right and more than okay to cry.
Over the decade that I worked in the emergency room, I lost count of the number of patients we lost.
At some point, you just become calloused to it.
You have to, or you’ll go nuts.
But the patients who sent me to the floor, weeping, were the ones with whom I shared a connection.
Connection can happen on a variety of levels.
When you connect with a person, you understand them.
You just get them.
You don’t have to have known them for 25 years.
You don’t have to have known them at all.
Where there is connection, there is appreciation.
And where there is appreciation, there is empathy…and maybe even love.
This is how I explain my profuse emotion and tears for a lost child I didn’t know.
And a musician I never met.
Your voice will stay with me forever.