To look out the window, you might guess my home to be England. The sky has been invaded by a massive wall of grey. Clouds seem to come together, mingle and hang overhead. Almost as in mourning, they begin to weep. Gently. Softly. A chill runs up my back as Bono sings “With or Without You.”
I’ve tuned into the morning show with John Richards on KEXP. It’s the day of the year that I’ve come to know as “The Mom Show” or “The Grief Show.” A moment we all can pause and be challenged by a little upstart station in Seattle Washington. It’s a humble little signal that reaches so many ears and hearts, with songs of love. Of sorrow. Of morning. Of joy. Songs dear to us and those that we have lost either to age, the bitterness of cancer, or things far more sinister. As I said, John is the host of the Morning Show, and on this day, it’s interesting that it starts out as a mourning show, then slowly changes with each story and life that made an impact on another life. Healing is at the heart of this show.
“Songs sound different here”
John recalls a listener tell him.
He continues with “It’s music in context and context is important. You may not be able to listen right now, today. Your grief and mourning may be too close. But love is stronger than death.”
The “Mom Show” started several years back after John lost his mother to a hard fought battle with cancer.
John goes on to say
“I wouldn’t be here today without my mom. She always believed in me and supported me.”
The show has become a place to celebrate those heroes in our lives that have retired or been taken from us. To celebrate the heroes that have come alongside us in our time(s) in the valley. Many of the stories pouring in are of forgiveness; how being able to exercise this act has mended estranged families or reunited long lost friends.
“If you have the opportunity to forgive someone, I implore you to do so!” A heavy pause,
“It will be too late to make amends when they are gone.”
As those words entered my ears, I realized that so much of life we live in grief. The grief of things we’ve done, things we’ve said. Or things we never tried or words we never mustered the courage to share with others. The words we don’t share with others never do them any good, especially if they are encouraging and uplifting. The power those words possess is enormous. They can disarm walking time-bombs around us. It’s incredibly humbling when we realize we have the means to make the difference in someone’s life.
The track playing now “Time” by Hans Zimmer, then transitions to Peter Gabriel cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” There is so much of this life we miss. So much time we waste. So many heroes, personal or professional, we don’t acknowledge because we are trying to keep up with “life.”
I love this annual reminder dedicated to the life and death of those we’ve loved and lost. It’s also a battle cry to break the cycle of bitterness. A time to begin or continue to heal. We have to if we ever wish to make the world better for our children’s, children’s, children.
Another “Air Break” and John shares with the “Morning Faithful.”
“Having a newborn and driving across the state of Washington in 4 hours, I made it there to be with my mom at the hospital. She was a police officer. It’s funny the details etched into your mind from moments like this.”
John recalls the police chaplain holding onto his mother’s toe.
I was intrigued. My attention arrested. Hoping for an elaborate explanation of some police tradition, John instead shares a crippling moment of the power of love, and the importance of a life well lived.
“He was holding onto her toe because there wasn’t room around the bed. So many people crowded around the bedside. Crowding around to love her. To be with her.”
John’s voice shutters ever so slightly, as the next memory pours out of his mouth.
“I ran out of the room and collapsed into a sobbing mess in the hall. A nurse found me and just hugged me. She is a hero. It was the kind of cry that makes your body shake uncontrollably.”
“The kind of cry you only experience a few times in your life.”
I’m transported back to one of my own “full body cries.” The clouds outside seem to be pressing in at the moment. The air seems to buzzes in my ears. The silence is now deafening.
“I don’t have any answers for you, but I know time helps. To those giving advice, I give you this advice; you just need to listen. Just be there. The healing with happen, but right now they need you to be present.”
I am lucky enough to still have my heroes (parents) with me and love them dearly. I share John’s feelings of appreciation. I’m glad I have the time and opportunity to tell my family “I love you.”
“Life is messy. Life is hard.”
This would be what another situation life taught me.
Motopony plays now in my headset, and these words ring out.
“Cause you can’t live inside you’re head,
And to be alone is worse than to be dead.
And that website won’t replace breaking bread,
That’s what you said…
…You’ll see this city is a dessert,
And the only source of water
Is the love you find at home.”
It has been a 5-hour mixtape overflowing with love and sorrow. Stories from across the country of people leaving lasting impressions on the lives around them. Be purposeful about the interactions you have in your day to day life; I challenge you to take the time. Know without a shadow of a doubt those interactions mean more than you think.
If you’d like to partake in the experience many of us had today, I’ve written out the playlist below. I encourage you to also check out KEXP’s archive (click John Richards 17–11–9 at 9:02 am ) and you can give this playlist a chance to stir something deep within or something you’ve placed just out of sight.
1. Half Life — Zola Jesus
2. When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die — Moby
3. A Moment Apart — Odesza
4. Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life — Hammock
5. Glosoli- Sigur Ros
6. Time — Hans Zimmer
7. Heroes- Peter Gabriel
8. Frailty (for the Dearly Departed) — Hammock
9. To Build A Home- Cinematic Orchestra
10. With Or Without You -U2
11. Love Is Stronger Than Death — THE THE
12. Someone Great- LCD Soundsystem
13. Trouble — TV On The Radio
14. Pictures Of You- The Cure
15. My Mom- Chocolate Genius
16. Amen Omen — Ben Harper
17. Run — Snow Patrol
18. This Is The Sea — The Waterboys
19. Rise- Eddie Vedder
20. Just Breath -Pearl Jam
21. Orange Sky — Alexi Murdoch
22. Please Tell My Brother — Golden Smog
23. Will I See You In Heaven- The Jayhawks
24. Wrapped In My Memory- Shawn Smith
25. She In Spirit -Motopony
26. Bookends — Simon and Garfunkel
27. Father and Son -Cat Stevens
28. Never too late- Micheal Franti & Spearhead
29. End Of The Line- The Traveling Wilbury’s
30. Sorry Somehow — Sean Nelson
31. Let it Be — Beatles
32. Breathe Me — Sia
33. Grow Till Tall — Jónsi
34. How It Ends- DeVotchKa
35. Family Tree -Tv On the Radio
36. Bridge Over Troubled Water -Simon and Garfunkel
37. The Other Side Of Mt Heart Attack — Liars
38. Koal — Damien Jurado
John signs off the show
“It means a lot when people believe in you.”
Speaking of his mother and how she never stopped believing in him. Regardless of where he wanted to steer the ship.
To all my friends and family; living or released,
Thank you for believing in me,
For being anchors to keep me grounded as life tried to wash me away.
Thank you for the laughter,
For making my heart grow to keep from bursting,
Thank you for the silence in which you sat with me,
As the world spun and unraveled around me.
Thank you for choosing to be apart of my life,
And for letting me be apart of yours.
“I can’t wait until we see each other again.”
- Shawn Smith “Wrapped in My Memory”