Such a Long, Long, Time To Be Gone

This post originally ran on August 9, 2007.
On this, the 15th anniversary of Jerry’s passing, I feel that it captures my thoughts well enough that I’d like to share it with you once more.

12 years have flown by since Jerry Garcia passed.

Nations have come and gone. Guitars grown silent and new players risen. Friendships and love affairs both dissolved and formed. My daughters born and one grown into a young woman, already… and too soon if you ask me. Yet, the world keeps turning.

Looking back to that day, when the news spread from phone to phone and head to head, I can vividly recall the feeling that I’ve felt more than a couple times in my life. It’s the feeling of being punched in the stomach- without the pain yet with all of the breathlessness- combined with the dizziness of a headwound and the crushing weighted sensation akin to wearing one of those lead aprons they use at the dentist’s office. I had gone to work at the record store before hearing the news and, I’d stayed because I didn’t know where else to go.

Motion seemed impossible.

Through the plate-glass I could see the world and its unceasing activity and, inside my head, I screamed for it to stop. I begged the world to freeze in place and pay notice to his passing. Didn’t they know what the world had lost?

Of course, they didn’t. Had they known, as I and so many hundreds of thousands know, they actually would have stopped and marked the day. They would have bowed their heads or lifted their arms or clenched their eyes tightly or all of the above and given thanks and voice to their sorrow for the fact that Jerry Garcia lived, gave his music to the world, and on that day, could give no more.

Yes, we saw it coming. On our less-than-blindly-optimistic days we certainly would not have expected him to live to 65. But no matter how much you think you’re ready… You never are. Not really.

That was a hard month. Not long after Jerry passed, something unexpected arrived in my mailbox. Actually, it was not so much unexpected as it had been forgotten. Earlier in the year, Jerry and his side band had recorded two songs for the soundtrack to the film, Smoke. In a mailer from The Grateful Dead or, perhaps in Relix magazine, I had spotted an offer for a free videocassette of the music video for one of the songs. Although it was noted as a very limited offer, I sent away and promptly forgot. That is, until one day, I opened my mailbox and found a mailer inside.

I rushed inside and popped in the video as I read the enclosed note. The note said that they had been flooded with requests after Jerry’s passing and that I was one of the ‘lucky few’ whose request they would be able to fill. The music started and I saw his face and I cried. It was not the first time I’d cried since that day, twelve years ago, when Jerry passed. This time, however, was the first time my tears could resolve into a smile. Things would get better. Life would go on. Tears are normal.

As they say, “When a lovely flame dies, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”
Incidentally, this is the last studio recording Jerry did and, it was written by his namesake: Jerome Kern.

And it still makes me cry.