A Strange Sort of Mourning

I’ve only recently become aware of a strange sort of mourning.

When you find out someone you admire is dead, and you realize they won’t make anything new, and you won’t ever get to meet them, it’s an interesting, melancholic, deep sadness that wells up in your chest.

With long dead people it’s different; you know they’re gone from the get-go.  You’re entering into a relationship with known boundaries.  Chopin, Coleridge, Donne- I’m looking at you.  You make them a part of you, knowing what you’re in for.

But then when you find a new artist, author, or musician that’s contemporary, or timeless, and you don’t know they’re dead, it can come as an unexpected loss.

Some part of me always wants to tell the people I admire how I feel about them.  With celebrities it’s sort of silly, and has never really amounted to anything (except a few gushing messages to a few of my favourite authors- but that’s perhaps more of a professional crush).  With people in real life, I try and let them know.  I’ve sent letters to teachers telling them how much of an influence they’ve had on my life, and how glad I was to have crossed paths with them.  It’s important to me that people know when they’re admired and loved.

When you didn’t know someone is dead, and can’t tell them all the nice things you want to say, it comes as a sort of betrayal. Suddenly the perimeters of the relationship change, and it becomes a one-way conversation that will never be reciprocated.

I’ve never met Stan Rogers, but I’ve been enjoying his music for about a year now (I got hooked when I saw this video; just a few Canadian guys sitting ’round the dinner table, right?) and have bought his albums and learned his great songs.  When I learned that he had died, age 33, in 1983, before I was even born, I felt this longing, this… regret, that has been sloshing around in my heart since then.

And I find myself going through the stages of loss and grief.

It began with not believing the thumbnail on a YouTube tribute video I saw out of the corner of my eye.

Then anger, anger at the plane fire which killed a talented young man.

It’s interesting going through this next stage (bargaining) with someone you don’t know (and I’m not sure how I’m expressing that one, actually).

The depression stage hit me strongly today, when “The Northwest Passage” came on my iPod as I was walking home.  I’ve listened to that song many times, often belting along to it while I threaded in the projection booth; but today was the first time I heard it since I found out-

And at the same time, there’s been this acceptance that’s started to sink in.  With it has come a sense of calm, admiration, wonder, and inspiration.  Even though I’ll never be able to tell him, even though his work is a contained body of music that will never be added to, even though he’s gone forever, I feel like it’s ok.

Because I have his music, and that was what I loved about him.  I can still have a one way conversation with him.  Now that I know how our relationship works, I’m ok with it.

Rest in peace, Stan, and thanks for leaving me such wonderful music.

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