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"