Beautiful Sky

I’m on the train from Croton-on-Hudson to take part in the 42nd John Lennon Tribute at Symphony Space on the upper west side of Manhattan. 

This week feels like it’s All-Lennon, All the Time between writing songs at Covenant House in his name and preparing for the Tribute. Thinking about it in terms of Bradley and Jim, the work has been a welcome reprieve from the grimmer things going on around me. Sigh.

Autumn is always beautiful in the Hudson Valley and today is no exception. The water outside the train window is sparkling, reflecting the early afternoon light. The white clouds above are stacked here and further south towards the city. It’s my favorite time of year in the northeast.

Were she here next to me, my Nana Francis might say, “It’s stunning !”

As I breathe that thought in, my phone lights up. It’s my step sister, Leah, probably calling about Bradley or her dad, Jim. And I am shocked back into the realization that I have been thinking about grandmas, Lennon and the sky because I don’t want to think or feel about loss. I’d rather think about…well…anything else right now.

I’ll reach out to Leah after this post is done.

Aaah! I see the Palisades – the rock formations we saw every day from the balcony in our Yonkers, NY co-op. What a breathtaking view.

The Palisades and the Hudson River

It was shortly after moving from Yonkers to Yorktown that we adopted Jessi, a yellow Labrador, from some neighbors. Jessi was with us for a few years before we lost her to cancer. That was a devastating loss.

And then there was Bradley, the little scruff of a pup we adopted in 2008. He was one of those dogs set to be killed in the south (Arkansas?) who are regularly shipped up north to be adopted by people like us.

In my prayers, I said, “God, if there is a heaven, I hope there’s a place for dogs, too. And I hope that Bradley meets Jessi and Clancy, too!” Clancy was my boyhood companion. I remember laying down next to him, watching him sleep and stroking his fur. So many happy memories with these mutts!

As the city comes into view, I’m reminded that this is the route along the Hudson River that one of the planes flew on 9-11. It was another beautiful day during this time of year. And it was a day when the reality of sudden death made the world seem both melancholy and surreal, kind of how it feels today.

I know that Brad’s death and Jim’s deteriorating health are harbingers of my own mortality. I know that a 42nd tribute to Lennon means we lost him when he was feeling really good and positive in his life, just like so many of the people who perished on planes or in the World Trade Center may have felt that morning. 

Gosh, we really don’t know how long we’re here, do we? It can all change suddenly and, sometimes, tragically. Or, if we’re lucky, it can fade away slowly like a beautiful Autumn day. And that’s just the way it is.

So, at this moment, I am going to be thankful I’m alive, that I knew and loved and hugged my dogs and my grandma, and got to see this day while it was here.

Yesterday at this time, I was at the vet’s office. I was standing beside Beth, petting Brad while the life seeped out of him. At that time, I felt sad but I also felt like one of the luckiest men alive. For I have known such love and for that reason, I think, “Scott, you can endure and experience loss with love, too.”

And now, I can call Leah. This writing and this day and these memories have brought me back to all of my feelings and I feel better. Healed, even.

May you know love today and always. And may gratitude for those you have lost fill your heart and heal you.

As a song my wife likes to sing at the bedside of dying people, says, “You are loved. Greatly loved.” Amen.

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