This song has me undone.
In case you’re not a raving fan, the Avett Brothers released their new album last Friday, on Jonathan’s sixth birthday, to be exact, and being a raving fan myself, I immediately plunked down $10 for my digital version.
I already knew a bunch of the songs, because they sing them live (including the debut of “Divorce, Separation Blues” right here in Knoxville at the Cheerwine concert!). But this one was new, and I listened, and listened again, and suddenly this thing I’d put away came rushing back.
It was March, and I was in St. Louis for the quarterly CPH board meeting. When the official meeting was over, we moved to another room on the fourth floor for drinks and food and fellowship. People were coming in and chatting when news came that there had been an accident out front and the car of one of our members was hit. Some people went down to check it out, some people didn’t seem to hear that anything had happened, and a few of us climbed onto the couch to peer down four floors to the street.
A pole was knocked down kitty-corner to the building.
A pickup truck was lodged in the back bumper of our member’s vehicle.
And the driver was lying on the ground, with the ambulance coming down the street and people everywhere trying to help.
I’ll spare the suspense: the man had apparently had a heart attack, hit the pole, and crashed.
But we didn’t know that at the time. All we could see was this man, lying on the ground, with a woman holding his hand and the EMS team trying to revive him. We prayed for him, helpless on the fourth floor. He was probably already gone.
Watching the scene below, I was taken back to my accident, in which there was a moment or more when I didn’t know whether I was dead. I was lying on the street in the same position as this man, with people around me helping. One of my primary angels that day was a news anchor, beautiful anyway and seemingly glowing with the sun behind her as she looked down at me. I was lying there, but I was also simultaneously above the scene, watching myself lying on the ground and watching people come to my aid. The “above” part was where I questioned whether I’d actually made it through.
And then it wasn’t September 30 anymore, but March, and I was watching someone else from above and teetering between my Professional Board Member persona and that fragile corner of my psyche that apparently isn’t completely scarred over and boxed into permanent storage. Professional Board Member won out for that moment and I finished out that quarter’s duty and went home and tried to put it away, even though I continued to pray for the man and wonder who he was and whether his family was okay.
And then, this song. I was listening to it one night while washing dishes, and it completely undid me inside, flashing these scenes back into my head and making everything raw again.
When my body won’t hold me anymore,
and it finally lets me free
Will I be ready?
No. Of course not. Not yet. Not ever? The human instinct to live is so strong. Also strong: the raw emotional impact of music, a beautiful but sharp weapon, a first-article gift that sometimes feels like a curse for all its power.
Not that I’d stop listening.