Dancing in the dark: co-opting the lyrics of a song to rewrite my grief story

Time’s a funny thing. It can fly, run, crawl, drag, or stand painfully still. Sometimes, apparently, it shuffles sideways; I’ve heard it said that our past lives are not a linear, backwards trajectory, but are unfolding simultaneously in alternate time-space realities that defy our current three-dimensional comprehension. I’ve also heard it’s possible to energetically revisit events in a current life past and grant oneself a do-over by way of taking the other fork in the road; in doing or saying what we failed to in that moment, we can release the residue of regret in this.

I tried many times to revisit my Waterloo—the scene of my Napoleonic defeat, my most devastating dance with death.

A moment that changes our whole lives

However, all I ever managed was to make matters worse. When I righted my unpardonable wrong—a split-second decision that cost me the most missed goodbye of my life—I became so hysterical that my supposedly calming, comforting presence caused a less than tranquil transition.

And then, I happened upon a heart-wrenching song by a heavy metal band (called, wouldn’t you know, In This Moment), which paints the kind of poised, peaceful picture I’d sought to whitewash over my own turbulent, tumultuous canvas. For starters, I was there, in THE moment. (To heck with reality, people, this is a do-over.) For seconds, I didn’t lose my shit. I had the presence of mind to look into the eyes that always told me everything I needed to know, and to know—that he was ok, that it was ok, and that, therefore, I would be ok.

I’m staring deep into your eyes

They’re telling me the time has come

It never occurred to me that it was time. Our souls are said to pass over soon as our work here is done. Who was I to assume what his work was, and whether or not it was a fait accompli? To my mind, it wasn’t time. But what the hell do I know of time?

And how did I not know that grief and God aren’t mutually exclusive? Believing our Father had fucked us both over, royally, I vowed never to forgive Him. Burning with betrayal, I traded faith for fury, innocence for delusion, and trust for terror. I turned from the Light, and fixed my gaze on the fiery pits of a self-created hell.

And I still believe in the good

And I still believe in the light

And I wanna feel the sun

Now, courtesy of my revisionist history mash-up, I turned my gaze in a more heavenly direction, allowing the sun scorch layers of blame, shame, regret, resistance, guilt, grief and denial. “The wound is the place where the light enters you,” wrote Rumi. Well, thanks to “Into the Light,” I was positively aglow.

And you turn to me and promise me you’re ready

And tell me you’ll be waiting on the other side

The other side of what? Death? Or my thoughts about death?

When I was a little girl, I adored a great aunt who, having lost many loved ones, including her husband and their unborn children, devoted the remainder of her life to maintaining a vigil at death’s door. Impatiently awaiting the moment she could join them on the other side. Nothing, not even my generous girlish affection, could convince her to trade either the past or the future for the present. Think, jilted bride Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, obstinately awaiting her groom in a decaying wedding dress. Enacting vengeance on life by refusing to live it.

When a loved one leaves, it’s tempting to enter a Sleeping Beauty-esque coma, believing that if we can freeze (or cheat) time, we can escape the painful reality of a present in which they no longer exist. But while the present promises pain, the alternative promises a lifeless existence populated by nothing more than a phantom.

When death darkens our door, it demands that we, too, die—to the person we were, to the future we’d envisioned, to the belief that life treads a path paved with predictability and permanence, to the myth that constancy is a faithful companion, to the illusion that we came here to remain unchanged.

In return, death promises to conspire in our Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of our funeral pyre.

We can sit amongst the tattered threads of our dead dreams, staring at a door through which someone once walked, or we can rouse ourselves and open another. Our Father’s house has as many rooms as we’re willing to enter.

I thank you for every second of your life

And I will not abdicate my responsibility to be alive to my own.

And I still believe in the light

Even if I still dance in the dark.