Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"The Day You Slipped Away..."

It's Wednesday of Holy Week.

I have been feeling... unfocused. Dislocated. Like the ground under my feet is not quite the same. I feel the strangeness of death.

I woke up the other day and thought, "Dad is dead? That's not possible! It doesn't make any sense. He can't be dead. He's my Dad!"

Yes, I still have faith. But faith doesn't make suffering go away. It gives the capacity to endure, to go forward - somehow - in the midst of the night. It suffuses every human reality, including death and the gaps and shifts in the human relationships of those who remain behind. It sustains us on the peculiar, unpredictable road of grief.

But why do I have a picture above of two very different people who don't seem to have any obvious connection to each other? What do C. S. Lewis and the 19-year-old, early-aughts version of Avril Lavigne have in common?


I have been reading Lewis's A Grief Observed. I saw it on the shelf. So I pulled it out and started reading it. It's his journal of his struggles following the death of his wife. His is a very different kind of loss, and many of its particular details don't resonate with anything in my own experience (though I can empathize). But Lewis, the great Christian apologist, does not hide the raw emotion or the darkness and strangeness of what he's going through.

I recognize the odd spectrum of feelings, which resemble in certain respects the symptoms of Major Depression. Lewis says that sometimes his grieving "feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting."

That's insightful. He also spends many paragraphs reasoning about the ways of God, acknowledging his incapacity to understand, and allowing for the fact of the anguish that human beings of flesh and blood, of time and history, must simply endure.

Lewis expresses in erudite terms his own experience of sorrow, without shrinking from its forcefulness.

Meanwhile, a song keeps coming into my head from 2004.

Here too is a genuine grieving, an experience of sorrow and loss. Avril Lavigne wrote "Slipped Away" after the death of her grandfather. She loved him very much.

The popular music song is a completely different form of expression, not one that ordinarily lends itself to long discursive insights. As for erudition, I have noted elsewhere that Avril's lyrics "read" very simply. They are not "stand-alone" poetry.

The song is a visceral, intuitive tonal painting of grief in its diverse hues. Vocal inflection above all gives the song its weight as a cry of bewilderment and pain, along with rhythmic structure and instrumentation. The emotions are universally accessible even while they maintain their raw and distinctly adolescent form.

Personally, I'm much affected by the almost echoing repetitions of the bridge leading into the final refrain. This section hits hard:

I had my wake up
Won't you wake up
I keep asking why
And I can't take it
It wasn't fake
It happened you passed by
Now you're gone, now you're gone
There you go, there you go
Somewhere I can't bring you back
Now you're gone, now you're gone
There you go, there you go
Somewhere you're not coming back
The day you slipped away
Was the day I found it won't be the same, no
The day you slipped away
Was the day that I found it won't be the same, oh
Nah nah, nah nah nah, nah nah
I miss you.

Once again, the way to appreciate this is to listen to her sing it (click below). I think I may find it cathartic, eventually, once the "invisible blanket between the world and me" removes itself.