I can’t tell you where it was but I can tell you how it felt.
I had been nervous that morning prior to this panel event. But a brisk walk to burn out my nervous energy did the trick. Backstage we put on our mics and prepped for our entrance–the moderator, me, and my two fellow panelists all of whom I admire a great deal. We took our seats.
By this time I was surrealistically calm. Excited, but no longer nervous. I had asked Charles to be with me on stage that day and I could even hear him telling me jokes in my ear. The night before, several at the event were encouraging. Heather said, “You got this.” It’s not so much the words she said but the fact that she thought to offer her support–someone who, 24 hours ago, had been a complete stranger.
The moderator had asked the day before if I would end the panel by reading some of Charles’s lyrics. My heart rate stuttered. I can do this right?
I chose the song, “Forgive Me, Momma,” definitely my favorite but certainly not my easiest. While I have read it on video, I had never read it live before. And practicing it proved that it wasn’t going to be easy which made me that much more stubborn it was the right one. I couldn’t make it past the first three lines before falling apart with grief–a sputtering, snotty, messy cry. That won’t do.
So I kept at it, reading it over and over until I could at least read it sufficiently without an all-out epic emotional tsunami.
The panel that day went very well and the questions from the audience were thoughtful and engaging. We all wanted more time together at the end to explore the topic but the clock won.
The moderator gave me the segue to reading the passage Charles wrote. And prior to reading the song, I asked his forgiveness for shortening the passage for the sake of time. And let’s face it, for my own self-preservation. I don’t think I could have done the whole song. The 1.5-minute version was all my grieving momma heart could handle even seven years after Charles’s suicide.
I took a deep breath and I’m pretty sure I winced visibly prior to starting. My mind narrowed into something akin to tunnel vision in concentration. It would take all my reserves and I had to shore them all up right then. There it was, a feeling of anticipation but also support. Where was it coming from? It was the people with me and in front of me. I cannot even explain how everyone’s silence and hopes in that room buoyed me at just the right time.
My throat started to tighten around those lines which usually triggered me into an emotional breakdown, so I paused to regain my composure and the tears spilled and my voice caught but I was able to keep it steady enough for the audience to hear, all of whom had on earphones, which someone would point out later, made the experience that much more intimate. (Charles would love the headphones as he was rarely without them. A metaphor?)
Excerpt from the Song, Forgive me Momma, by Charles Aubrey Rogers. (Bolded part is the trigger for me.)
“I was so angry when you sent me away, in my own personal hell to stay.
I hated every day, put me off on layaway
cause you were terrified by the way I lived my life.
I was still your little kid inside,
the same little boy who said Momma I lost my tooth,
was the same kid saying I need bail from you, I failed you.“
When I finished, I apparently said, “I did it.” I don’t remember that part. But I do remember the relief and looking up and seeing everyone crying, including the moderator.
There is something particularly intimate and extraordinary about crying together as one, feeling the same emotion at the same time in the same space. I wouldn’t describe it as sadness really but it was so strong that for a moment, it leveled the playing field of everyone in that room. For that suspended piece of time, there was no hierarchy–we were all humans with a heart.
It’s not an experience I will ever be able to replicate nor would I ever try. However, I have savored and tucked it away in my memory bank for future retrieval when I want to remind myself of a time when I felt truly connected.
4 thoughts on “A special audience”
Hey there. I always feel compelled to pop in.
Such powerful profundity in his words. They express two things that haunt me forever. “I was still your little kid inside” – My mind doesn’t stop with Daniel’s suicide. It always replays his entire life which to me decimates the family scrapbook. And “I failed you.“ – I’m sure Daniel would have felt that but my forever guilt and regret is that I failed him. Both of those continue to wane in intensity but are forever part of me. A common reaction I’m sure by many suicide loss survivors. Seven years later I have another one of those “milestone” trigger tests upcoming. My 25 yr old daughter (only child now) is getting married this year and all of Daniel’s friends will be there. I haven’t seen them for a few years as they have all separated and moved on in life. And of course Daniel hasn’t. It will be such strong competing emotions of sheer happiness and utter devastation. The experts talk about complicated grief. I know they mean a long term debilitating grief response. It’s not debilitating but suicide loss grief is surely complicated.
Funny, I was thinking about you yesterday. I swear I was. I hadn’t heard from you in a while. And I have given enough classes on suicide grief to know that why you have expressed is so true. It’s a very different kind of grief because of the intentionality of suicide. And the life events? They are tough.
I found that a recent marriage of his best friend was not as hard. But then I have been having “the boys” over for many years now. Although they didn’t really start to talk about the death until year 7. They said it was too tough to talk about it prior. So Charles’s best friend got married and he mentioned some of the people who had died at the ceremony. His wife’s father, charles and his grandmother. Just a mention of their names and sorry they weren’t there. He recently had a baby. They named her Aubrey, Charles’s middle name. That meant a lot. We had them over a month ago. But life events are still hard and we talked about that. Because it was hard for Robert too. It was hard for him not to be able to share the memories and moments with the kid he grew up with, the kid who would have been his best man. You need to let me know how it goes. And you are welcome to email me, too David. Thank you for reaching out. And congratulations on your daughter’s wedding even if it’s bittersweet.
I read your book and I loved it ! Very well written ! I’m so thankful that I found you as our journey is the same
And I feel comfort after reading you blogs and you book !
Devens Charles Roods Mom 7/7/15
Thank you Wendy. So many similar themes. Please do leave a review.