Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beloved Wife (Take Two)

Beloved Wife (from the album Tigerlily)

You were the love
for certain of my life
you were simply my beloved wife
I don't know for certain
how I'll live my life
now alone without my beloved wife
my beloved wife 


I can't believe
I've lost the very best of me  


You were the love
for certain of my life
you were simply my beloved wife
I don't know for certain
how I'll live my life
now alone without my beloved wife
my beloved wife 


I can't believe
I've lost the very best of me  


You were the love
for certain of my life
for fifty years simply me beloved wife
with another love I'll never lie again
it's you I can't deny
it's you I can't defy
a depth so deep into my grief
without my beloved soul
I renounce my life
as my right
now alone without my beloved wife
my beloved wife
my beloved wife


My love is gone she suffered long
in hours of pain  


My love is gone
now my suffering begins 


My love is gone
would it be wrong if I should
surrender all the joy in my life
go with her tonight?  


My love is gone she suffered long
in hours of pain 


My love is gone
would it be wrong if I should
just turn my face away from the light
go with her tonight?



I'm interrupting my regularly scheduled programming this week to do something I've never done before on this blog - write about a song for a second time. Let me explain:

I've written for fun since I was a kid - poems, essays, short stories, etc. But ever since I was a kid I've rarely been able to revisit my own writing with any sense of pride or enjoyment. I always think something I've written is solid as soon as I've finished it, but within months or even weeks of reading it again, I'm usually embarrassed and think it's terrible. I've just accepted this about myself. I write for the fun of the process, not so much for the end result.

This truth applies to this blog as well. I enjoy writing it, but it's pretty rare that I can go back and read a post from months or years ago and still think it's well done. So generally I avoid it. But there is one post from the early days of this blog that I find particularly cringe-worthy even just thinking about - the post I wrote about Beloved Wife. (Normally, I might provide a link here, but I really don't want to make it easy for you to read it.)

I wrote about Beloved Wife in a completely detached way. I made jokes, I talked about the music more than the words, and when I did touch on the lyrics everything I wrote was utterly inelegant. I think the reason for this is pretty simple - this is what I do in my life. When faced with situations that require me to speak about deeply emotional subjects, I find ways to joke my way out of too much genuine expression. Apparently, even when I write, even in anonymity, this tendency rears its ugly head. I sometimes thought about rewriting the post for Beloved Wife, but never seriously ...until yesterday. Yesterday I received a comment from a reader regarding my post for Beloved Wife. Here is what it said:

Annie,

I lost my wife 6 months ago to cancer. I can tell you that everything in this song is true. We were married for 15 years and I would give anything (including all of my remaining days) for just one more minute with her in my arms.

It is not a choice to surrender all the joy in one's life. All of the joy in my life died with her.

I only wish I could simply turn away from life and join her. But she made me promise to go on, so I do.

Thank you for discussing this beautiful song.


The truth is, as you well know, I'm unable to write anything more meaningful, or better composed, than this reader's comment. But I at least owe it to him and others who might search the words "Natalie Merchant" and "Beloved Wife" and find this blog to write something more meaningful than what I wrote before. The words to Beloved Wife are straightforward; there are no allusions that cry out for deciphering. There aren't multiple ways to interpret the lyrics. So I'll keep what I have to say simple and very short:

Many of Natalie's songs are moving and many are beautiful, but Beloved Wife feels like more than that. It feels important. It's completely devoid of any effort to find a bright note, a silver lining in all the misery. I respect that. As vital as hope is, this kind of devastation deserves to be laid completely bare, to be protected for a moment from notions of going on with life.  

Beloved Wife has proved itself capable of completely embodying the despair of loss. That is why it's important. Because to hear someone put your feelings into words means someone else understands; that you're not alone. I guess in the end that is where the comfort in the song comes from - shared grief. Comfort in shared experience is not new ground for Natalie - it's her hallmark. But she has never and will never do it better than she does it with Beloved Wife.

I know that none of what I've written here today is as meaningful or as profound as the words of this song, but it's the best I know how to do.



Download Beloved Wife from Itunes - Beloved Wife - Tigerlily

8 comments:

  1. Beautiful song, indeed. I was listening to it this morning and it is one of those songs I stop to listen to since, it is not one you can listen in the background and do other things.

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    1. I totally relate. There are a handful of Natalie's songs that I hardly ever listen to because I feel like I have to be in a place, emotionally and physically, where I can give them my full attention.

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  2. Almost always my favourite of hers, and for many reasons. One of those is that the lyrics *are* so simple; they tell it as it is. What is being said does not need to be hidden or jazzed up; it is simple grief. And laying out so plainly makes it stand out.

    And for what it is worth; I'd love to hear it sung by a popular Country singer. May I refer you to Oh Yeah, You're Gone by Brad Paisley? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjMVcDfr4Ik Most people read it as a break up, but I think it is too stark and too simple to be that; this grief is bereavement, as is the voice in Beloved Wife.

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    1. Yes, I agree that is what makes the lyrics so powerful.

      Hey, you're referring to my first post about Beloved Wife! That's off limits! Just kidding...

      By the way, I love your name. You should become a writer or a film director. Or a philosopher.

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  3. Always has been one of my favorites....it literaly expresses my fear of outliving my wife - a far better person then me...

    Thank you for your blog.....I am glad I found it.

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    1. Hi James -

      Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you found the blog too!

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  4. Very nicely written. And the first one wasn't so bad, Girl!

    I think this is about respect for one's dignity in grief, that it is such an individual experience, sort of like death. Grief is self-centered, as much about me as it is about the person who has passed on. So the ones urging the grief-stricken to carry on can have their own needs in mind as much as anyone else's.

    I think it's human nature to want to quiet someone who is in pain; it's just so hard to bear. This song is a brave statement of the truth of loss and life, that we walk that path alone, with our own truth. Companionship is a rich condiment, but it's not the meat of the thing. I guess if you're lucky, you meet someone who becomes the slice of turkey to your roast beef. But not many people can love enough truly to let go.

    Must subconsciously be trying with this crazy comment to make you feel better about your original post! Anyway, love the song, love your comments, fabulous link, love your blog. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you kindly. Interesting thoughts...and I like your true love/dinner meats comparison. : )

      Thanks so much for your kind words about the blog. I'm really glad you are enjoying it. I only wish I could write more often!

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