Musician Nick Cave's Poignant Thoughts on Grief

My latest listen for my 1001 Albums Project was Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' album The Boatman's Call. I liked it very much. The lyrics are poignant and his voice is engaging in a mournful, poetic way. But more meaningful -- at least to me -- was it reminded me to go back and read a quote by Nick Cave that I saw a few weeks back.

Nick's 15 year old son died from an accident recently. A fan wrote to him asking if he felt his son communicating with him now in some way as this fan believed several of her departed loved ones were appearing to her in dreams. His response was beautiful.

Dear Cynthia,

This is a very beautiful question and I am grateful that you have asked it. It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.

I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.

With love, Nick.
— Nick Cave as shared on "The Red Hand Files" website

My mom, who passed away a couple of years ago, is often a character in my dreams. Not speaking to me, but reminding me of her influence in making me who I am today. And reminding me of who I am is something that always needs reinforcing. Thank you, Mom.

Soft Cell | Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)

Okay, so “Tainted Love” is catchy, singable, and as someone who attended high school in the early 80s, it’s permanently embedded in my brain. But why is this album considered one of the top 1001 of all time?

And while I’m at it, don’t you think “Tainted Love” is just an odd rhythm to dance to and yet it is always on dance playlists of that era? Try it. It’s obviously too fast to slow dance to but it’s too slow to dance fast. It’s just awkward.

Portishead | Third (2008)

Trip hop. The chill continues. Music that makes me want to lean back, close my eyes, and close my mind to my own problems while I listen to someone else’s. I found this lower key, even more haunting than their 1994 album <em>Dummy</em>

And if I should fall, would you hold me?
Would you pass me by?
For you know I’d ask you for nothing
Just to wait for a while
— Portishead "Hunter"

The Turkey Bowl

 Victory hangs in the balance… every year.

Victory hangs in the balance… every year.

When we were young there were numerous times when we received a "Good job!" an "Atta boy!" a "Way to Go!" Kids are often heroes.

However, those opportunities for glory grow fewer and fewer. The chances to excel come all too rare. As adults, we have a job where we are expected to make the grade and when we surpass it, it may (or may not) be noticed by the highers.

But then there is Thanksgiving.

If the wife/mother/woman-of-the-house cooks the turkey, go ahead and stop reading this (probably sexist) drivel now.

Very few times during our family year do so many count on the successful completion of a task. The turkey must be good! Not overdone, not undercooked. Crispy skin. Don't burn it. Beautiful. White meat moist. Not dry. Get the dark meat right. Even the meat near the bone needs to be done. And then if it's perfect, carve it right. Do not mangle it!

The turkey is Dad's -- the old guy's -- chance to score the winning touchdown. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys may be 4th and goal on the Detroit Lions' goal line, but that is secondary to Dad pushing that 18 pound Butterball into the end zone.

The skin gleams like an Oscar for the Best Provider for His Family. It's the gold medal around Dad's neck, the top spot on the cooking dais. Like some ancient Olympian in the oven arts, master of the game fowl, a Dad who can produce a great turkey receives the adoration of all at the table and he knows that means the whole world. At least as long as dinner (and a few mentions while we're doing the dishes) you are the pinnacle of Dad-dom. On the other hand, a mediocre turkey means another year slaving away at the thankless task of being the oldest producer of testosterone in the room. A year of second guessing what could have been… what could have roasted.

Book Of Questions | If you were able to live to the age of 90...

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the body or mind of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
— Book of Questions, Gregory Stock

I suppose my 53rd birthday is a pretty good time to consider this question.

Over the last couple of years, I have noticed my body aging. It’s more difficult to get down on the ground, and more difficult to get up. I’ve got aches and pains when I get up in the morning. I’ve noticed a reduction in my physical strength. I just can’t lift as much as I once could. It’s harder to open jars than it used to be. And although some of this change can be attributed to being in less than optimal physical shape…

There’s no denying it: I’m aging.

So, how do I answer the question?

I would really like to have that 30 year old body back. And I would continue to enjoy having it until 90. (I promise to take better care of it this time.) And I’m willing to be a senile old man with a 30 year old body. The retirement home will be loads of fun.