The Surly Bonds

I love the rain. I know it’s been raining a lot lately and probably some people are tired of it by now, but I love it. I love the sound of it. I love that it gives us time to be inside or underneath an umbrella or tucked inside a rain jacket. I love the sound of it on the roof, the sound of it hitting the ground outside. I’m sure it causes lots of problems for people, but I’m a fan.

He was a large man, in both size and personality. Loud, too. His constant companion was a gigantic black German Shepard. Both of them made a lot of noise and took up a lot of space, but they were kind and loving, of course. He asked me every time … how are the boys? How’s Coco? How’s the church? He cared a lot, that way.

He went to sleep the other night and did not wake up. He is dead today, gone speedily and without warning from this world while he was visiting his family out of state; his Shepard now waiting in a nearby kennel for the beloved master who will never return.

The other Star Is Born-ers.

The other Star Is Born-ers.

I went to see A Star Is Born. I’m a solid fan of the 1976 version so I already knew the deal: alcoholic musician whose light is fading meets sort-of-pretty-sort-of-not-pretty unknown female singer and transforms her into a rock star. Or at least introduces her to the star vehicle, and off she goes, leaving him to his self-destructive ways and ultimate suicide. I loved the Streisand/Kristofferson version if for no other reason than Kris Kristofferson was the hottest thing in the history of music or film then. I also loved that Streisand wore all her own clothes, which were fantastic. Most especially, though, I loved the song she sang at the end, after her husband has died … with one more look at you, I’d learn to change the stars and change our fortunes, too. I’d have the constellations paint your portrait, too … the world could end each night, with one more look at you.

Gaga sang a different song at the end of the new version, which was both disappointing and surprising given that one of the key lines in the film had to do with Cooper wanting one more look at her in the times when she was walking away from him.

Every one of us has one of these. We all have a person who went poof! from our lives. In some cases intentionally, perhaps, a clean break at the end of a difficult relationship; but in most cases an accident or suicide or sudden death of some sort. The tree fell and hit him. The drunk driver plowed into him. The plane fell out of the sky, the tsunami tore her out of bed, his heart stopped working, she fell down the stairs. Gone.

What do we want when someone goes from us that way? Another smell. Another touch. One more chance to hear the sound of their voice. To look over and see them there, again. That’s all.

Why is it, I wonder eternally, that we don’t really know what we have until we don’t have it anymore? We don’t take the time to really appreciate all that life gives us until something takes it away, until something ends. We don’t know how great it is to have ten toes that work until one of them breaks. We don’t appreciate vision until we start to lose it. We take the dog for granted as always there until she dies and leaves a gaping hole at the foot of the bed. We have no idea how much someone means to us until they’re gone.


I’m not sure how we can come to live with a deeper appreciation for … everything. I don’t understand why it takes loss for us to value possession. Why the absence of something brings into profound and often painful focus how great that thing was when it was right there with us, offering life, attention, opportunity, love.

I wonder who we would be if everything and everyone we mourn the loss of suddenly returned. Would that be happiness? Or would we default to business as usual? I wonder, often, why we humans seem always so focused on … something else … someone else … some day …

I wonder why so much escapism, too — drinking and drug use; why we are a culture of humans who want out of … this. Because when this is gone, we want it back, right?

The man who went to sleep and died the other night was my dad’s good friend; best friend, you might say. I could see the confusion and sorrow in his eyes when he and Mom told me this story. I could see how he was wondering what his life would be like without this friend with whom he had shared so much.

I can’t help but wonder what it was like for this man’s wife, to have woken up beside him, the day coming into focus, thoughts of what they would be doing with their kids and grandkids, whom they were visiting. And then the realization that her husband was dead, gone, that he had slipped the surly bonds of earth in the night.

What does it take … I wonder … for us to love wholly, to appreciate all that life is giving us right now, today?

I love the rain so much. Maybe it begins there, in waking up and hearing the rain and thinking … this rain, it’s beautiful. Amen.