Loss

Prompted by the title of a recent post, the other day I put on the Mull Historical Society’s first album Loss as a background for getting some work done – not so much music to work with as to work against. Colin MacIntyre (who is the MHS) wrote the songs on the album after the death of his father, which a number of them refer to; the album came out in the summer of 2001, shortly after my father died. On a conscious level, at least, I’d forgotten all this; most of all, I’d forgotten that the album ends with a song which is also called “Loss”. You can find Mull Historical Society lyrics all over the Web these days (you can find lyrics by anybody all over the Web these days) but not the lyrics of “Loss”: it was a hidden track on the CD (although not on the vinyl release), and that has apparently rendered it invisible to whoever it is that puts these things up out there. So here it is.

“Loss”
Colin MacIntyre (Mull Historical Society), 2001

I share my loss with you
I share my loss with you

I tried to be afraid
I think that’s what you do
I tried to settle down
Into something new

I tried to wonder why
I need to come to terms
I tried all these things
Hey, all you need is time

I share my loss with you…

I tried to get ahead
I think that’s what I need
But I’m the last to know
I just want to feel

I tried to get away
But all I need is here
I tried to take time
I tried to take time

I wish I could be calm
I wish I could be free
I wish it could be you
Running next to me

I share my loss with you…

I tried to be afraid
I think that’s what you do
I tried to settle down
Into something new

I tried to wonder why
I tried to get away
I tried all these things
I tried all these things

I wish I could be calm
I wish I could be free
I wish it could be you
Running next to me

I share my loss with you
I share my loss with you

Hearing that song unexpectedly had me in pieces. Because that’s it: that’s exactly what it’s been like. Most obviously, the lyrics evoke a restless search for something that would work against loss, together with a sense that nothing does: all those ‘I tried’ lines evoke the numb, baffled sense of still being stuck with it, starting yet again from zero. ‘I tried to be afraid’ seems like an odd line, but I know that I’ve been wading through waves of unfocused anxiety and hypochondria recently; I think it’s because fear of the future is more manageable than grieving over something which has, unavoidably, happened. (You can do something about the future, after all.) Come to that, I remember being convinced I wasn’t long for this world after my father died; I’m with Colin, I think that’s what you do.

But nothing works, in any case. Nothing works except time, and even that’s a false friend: I’ll be feeling OK in a year, right, so by now I should be feeling about 10% better and next month… “Hey, all you need is time” – the glib tone of the line suggests the awful realisation that time doesn’t work either, or not in any way that you can measure. Nothing works, except perhaps to recognise that nothing works and abandon all the restless, anxious pulling away: to give up on trying to get away from the loss, get beyond it, move on.

The song enacts the pulling away it describes: it avoids the subject for as long as possible, and avoids facing the impossible, insoluble problem.

I wish I could be calm
I wish I could be free

To say that is to recognise that I don’t feel those things, which is something in itself. And also, perhaps, to recognise that lacking those feelings, day after day, is hard to bear; and to recognise that, for now, there may be nothing I can do to get them back.

I wish it could be you
Running next to me

And there it is. It took a while to get round to it – it even took me a while to get round to it in this post – but that itself is part of the problem. It’s hard to admit to grief, except as a kind of traumatic response in the immediate aftermath of a loss. There’s something slightly undignified about the sheer excess of it: come on, the world seems to say, the person you’ve lost is always going to be dead from now on, so are you always going to be mourning? Even when nothing like that has actually been said out loud, it’s hard to counter it. It’s difficult, in other words, to say Yes, it’s been nearly a month, and yes, I’m functioning quite normally now but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt any more, actually, because it does actually still hurt like hell,actually. Or words to that effect.

As for why it hurts – or what hurts – look at the second line. Colin MacIntyre is a youngish guy and his Dad died before his time, so maybe he does have memories of them going running together. My parents were both well on in years, and I’m not that young or active myself, so I couldn’t really conjure up anything more active than ‘walking next to me’. But it’s still a beautiful and evocative image: it suggests two lives moving forward side by side, continually present to each other, heading into a shared future. And that’s what’s gone. And that’s what’s hard to bear.

It’s a beautiful song. These are hard times.

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3 Comments

  1. Lisa Rullsenberg
    Posted 16 April 2006 at 16:35 | Permalink | Reply

    Quite possibly one of the most touching posts I have read in a long time. And thanks for making me rethink MHS. I’ll hunt this particular album hidden track out thanks to you.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted 18 May 2006 at 12:29 | Permalink | Reply

    hi there,
    i only looked on this site for a recipe idea and ended scanning through.sounds like you had a ‘normal’ family upbringing.you brought the image of your mum to life for me when reading about the day she died.still cant remember what the recipe was now,and im not going to press the back button to find it.
    i just want to ask one question which mat be answered if id read every article on this site.who are you?

  3. Anonymous
    Posted 18 May 2006 at 12:32 | Permalink | Reply

    ooops sorry but im the annonymous mentioning your mum and recipes,i would like to also mention that you have a way with words that kept reading,damn you im a busy girl,well not really but it sounded good.
    dont know who was talking about in this post but it was touching.
    right all been said and done now.
    bye

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