Without fullness of experience, length of days is nothing. When fullness of life has been achieved, shortness of days is nothing. That is perhaps why the young have usually so little fear of death; they live by intensities that the elderly have forgotten. ~ Lewis Mumford
Recently, I sat at the deathbed of my cousin, Jeannie, who was like a sister to me. Jeannie had class, even as a grammar school child, an age when it’s not a trait most children have acquired. Her grace and style marked her life and exhibited itself in every thing she did throughout her short life.
She was like my sister, walking me to school, watching TV with me, and generally modeling how to behave in school and in life. She was always there and she always cared. No matter what, I knew her love for me, her family and friends was unconditional. Another trait not everyone has. She lived her life well and fully. How does one say thank you to someone who meant so much and has done so much?
All I could do was sit with her as disease riddled her body, gradually paralyzing her. It started with her legs. Then she couldn’t move her arms, she couldn’t eat and eventually she could no longer speak. The doctor looked in her eyes with his hand light the Monday on the last week of her life and said, “She’s gone.”
I knew she wasn’t gone. When I asked her questions, she would blink once or twice in a very deliberate way. The next day when I came to her room, she forced out a scream as I spoke to the nurse. I ran up to her and whispered in her ear, “Don’t worry, I know you can hear me and I won’t leave you.” She stopped her staccato screams which came with her last ounce of strength. She seemed at peace.
She wanted me to know she was alive.
That night I had a dream that I should play music for her so I did as I sat by her deathbed the next day, and the next, and all the nexts after that, until she passed.
When I went to the hospital each day, I played music from my IPod – The Beatles among other rock songs and religious songs like Ave Maria. She would force her head to the left to bend her ear towards the music. I would ask her if she liked it and told her to blink twice if she did and once if I should turn it off. She always blinked logically.
One of the songs she seemed to love the most was Hallelujah performed by Jeff Buckley, a young man who also suffered a tragic death.
It’s a beautiful song and it gives me some peace to know that Jeannie left this earth listening to beautiful music.
Jeffrey Scott “Jeff” Buckley (November 17, 1966 – May 29, 1997), was born in California and raised as Jeff Scotty Moorhead. His father was Tim Buckley, a talented musician, who died of an accidental drug overdose.
Buckley was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. He played guitar in LA clubs and amassed a following in the early ’90’s, playing in such venues as Manhattan’s East Village.
Eventually, he focused on his own material. He signed with Columbia, after his father’s recording company rejected him, recruited a band, and recorded what would be his only studio album, Grace. He was well on his way to success at the time of his death.
On Thursday night, May 29, 1997, Buckley was hanging out with a roadie, Keith Foti, who had became a friend. They were at the Mud Island Harbour marina, half a mile inland off the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee.
They were listening to a stereo and playing a guitar when Buckley waded into the water while wearing boots, all of his clothing, and singing the chorus of the song “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin.
Buckley had gone swimming there several times before.
Keith Foti remained on shore. As Buckley started singing and laid back on the water, a boat went by causing waves to come in to the shore.
The friend on shore turned his back to move the stereo away from the incoming waves and when he turned around, he couldn’t see Buckley. After a 10-minute search, the friend called local police. The Memphis police department began dragging the waters that night and continued to do so for the next two days. Harsh rains hampered their search efforts. They also checked the shore, hoping he had wandered out of the water. Friends were contacted and people in the area of the marina questioned. They came up with nothing.
Jeff Buckley simply vanished.
He was found three days later by passengers on a steam boat, who saw a body in an Altamont T-shirt tangled up in some branches on the riverside, near Harbor Island.
There was no sign of alcohol or drugs in his system at the time of his death. Jeff Buckley was 30 years old.
Whole Lotta Love!!! Led Zeppelin