no matter the situation in my life, there is always a similar thread that runs through the way that i relate to it, and that is music. though i lack the talent and ability to play an instrument or sing, i cope by turning to a song. finding lyrics that i feel i can relate to and music that touches me in a such a deep way brings the entire situation down to a manageable size. i can handle anything if i can play the song that sounds the way i feel, and for those three to five minutes, i have it all under control. and if, when the song ends, i'm still not ready to deal, i just hit repeat, and feel it all again. eventually, i'm strong enough to breathe.
this coping strategy has never been more exemplified than in my dealing with the death of my Grandma Bulah. easily, i can say that her passing was the most difficult thing that i have dealt with in my entire life. when i first learned that she was gone, i had a three hour drive between me and where i needed to be with my family, and there was only one song that i wanted to hear-- no, really needed to hear --to help me keep it together long enough to make it down the interstate. that song was "burning bright," by Shinedown.
i remember the first time that i made the relation of that song to my life. it was one of my first Shinedown shows, at the state fair many, many years ago. the show was outside, and before Brent introduced "burning bright" he told a story about his grandmother and what she had once told him about the stars, stars that were amazingly bright that night to have been in the center of louisville. he said "my grandmother was the wisest person that i have ever known," and i instantly connected the story of his grandma to my Grandma Bulah, who was, and still is, without doubt the wisest person i have ever known. (i'll let him explain the rest of his story in the video above.)
it would only make sense that it would a song by my favorite band that would remind me of my favorite person. i loved all of my grandparents dearly, and was so blessed to have them, but with Grandma Bulah the relationship was different. even when i was little, she was my best friend. as my neighbor, she was often delegated the job of "kelli's babysitter" which meant days of gardening and exploring, nights of slumber parties and popcorn made on the stove, and more memories than i could ever type here. even as i got older, and chose to travel down the hill to her house willingly and not because mom said to, we still did those things as long as she was able. as she neared the end of her life, she could do less and less and our time together consisted mainly of talks in her room. but these talks, about anything and everything, meant just as much or more than our times together in the past.
today marks the one-year anniversary of her death. as soon as i got into my car this morning, i didn't even turn my radio on. instead i flipped open my cd "suitcase" and pulled out Shinedown's Leave a Whisper. i put it in the cd player and skipped straight through the songs until i heard the notes of the guitar that i was searching for. "burning bright" played, and i cried. the catharsis that comes from hearing that song flooded me, and my eyes flooded accordingly. i cried all the way to work. i cried because i missed her, i cried because i missed so much time that i could have spent with her while she was still here and didn't, i cried because i was angry at god for taking away one of the kindest, sweetest, and just best people that had ever lived, and then cried a little more because i know i shouldn't question things like that. i cried because she won't be at my wedding, because my children won't have the chance to grow up with her like i did. mostly, i just cried because there is such a big hole in my heart, and my life, that my best friend used to fill, where her presence is irreplaceable.
so until night falls and i can take the advice of Brent and go outside to look for answers in the stars, i will listen to "burning bright" and just remember. and cry. and question. and somehow, like i have done everyday for the past year, i will find a way to be ok. in her infinite wisdom, Grandma Bulah taught me how to be a strong, independent, intelligent, and generally good human. though she may not be here in body anymore, her spirit will live through me and all those who's lives she touched forever. i'm so lucky to have had the time with her that i did, but it doesn't make her being gone any easier. until i can handle this day, i'm going to hit repeat one more time...
i love you, and i miss you so much -- <3 kelli ann