Escape can’t be the only thing

For a few weeks there in Canada it was like you couldn’t swing a dead racoon without hitting somebody talking about the legacy of the Tragically Hip. Which is as it should be. They are arguably (unless you are a fan of Rush) the best rock band to come out of the Ontario hinterlands of all time.

But I didn’t watch the show. I have listened to some songs and I am sad, and angry at brain cancer, the single worst way a smart creative person like Gord should be facing his mortality. But brain cancer and I go way back. We have history. I was already angry when Gord came out with his announcement. Brain cancer killed my best friend last summer, and I am not really over it. I would like very much to kill brain cancer and get my best friend back.

The weekend she died, after her mother went through heroic efforts to have her transported to Ontario to be closer to friends and family, I was at an outdoor concert. Listening to Dan Mangan sing. I am listening to him now again and crying.

I miss my friend. I am almost 40 and music makes me cry really easily now. I am not sure what the next 20 years hold — will my emotions become so fragile I will have to restrict my listening to private rooms?

She was only 39. She was the most brilliantly funny and observant person I knew. She struggled with depression and anxiety. She had a great aesthetic sense. She wasn’t living up to her potential and then she died.

Sometimes we have whole conversations in my head and I honestly couldn’t swear that I was making it all up. She sounds so real.

What do people do when they grieve something this unfair. What do people do when the passage of time only puts it into a context where it seems more unfair. There goes another year she won’t see. Here comes another beautiful day she won’t enjoy.

This year seems so full of public grief, and consternation. I guess I wanted to write about private grief. How long it lasts, how strong it is compared to the much more tolerable aspects of getting older — sagging, weird muscle pain, grey hair — fine I can take it. But the grief? It just gets worse.

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