Today, being the second of October, is Sting's birthday. I am listening to "The Last Ship" on Spotify right now. I've never not had money for a new Sting CD so thankfully there is Spotify for the foreseeable future. It's been 10 years since his last album of original tunes. And a lot has changed in those 10 years.
At once they seem to have been the longest decade of my life and the shortest. I measure my life in milestones more than in years. It seems, with the notable exception of Matthias Reim to hold my heart in time of heartache, Sting is the soundtrack underscoring those milestones. When I find myself inconsolable at points in which the losses in my life are so poignant there is always an album which lets me do my grieving and find the strength of hope to get through the hardest part of the process: the letting go and getting back to life. Most of that time, when I miss someone most, I return to Soul Cages.
Soul Cages got me through Dad's sickness and passing. It is difficult to describe all those feelings. Anyone who has lost someone knows them... knows them well. Anyone who has been there knows there is little that can be said to make it better. The Hallmark™ card to hold all the sentiments for those occasions would be as tall as the Statue of Liberty and still not be able to convey the support a grieving person needs. Or desires. In fact the grieving person usually doesn't know what would help until the help arrives. Cue Sting.
His father passed and Soul Cages was his process to deal with it. You don't just miss the person in the flesh from the moment of passing. You miss the whole thing: the times that you shared and the times that you blew off. There are things that our fathers tell us that we do not heed when they are with us that we cannot then ask them to repeat once they are gone. You grieve for that. Then you feel the guilt. Here's the thing though, you also miss yourself.
Soul Cages looks at what life was like growing up in Newcastle, especially "All This Time" which is one of my favorites in his entire body of work. When a parent passes you miss those times that you remember fondly, pictures play in your mind like a fading 16mm film. You miss the places you were when you were there. You miss your hometown and the way it was while you were growing up. You miss the vision of yourself when you see those films in your mind. Looking through old books in rainy weather is torture; and much needed. In less than two weeks I will mark the 8th year of my father's passing. Soul Cages came to me a year before he passes, it paved the way for the process to come. I bought it the same year that Sacred Love came out, the same day it came out.
When my father did pass two weeks after his 90th birthday I remembered the CD, the liner notes Sting wrote. For a month I only listened to Soul Cages. I planned the funeral with the director alone. I made mistakes that alienated my cousins on my father's side. I gathered the pictures for the memorial alone. I talked to the doctors about his condition and was the only one of the three of us to know that he was not coming back. I stood alone in the hospital room with no one to hold onto. I survived those horrible moments with Sting's dulcet voice in my head... singing me through the breaths that I would have to take to make it downstairs to my car without upsetting the whole hospital. My brother wailed onto his wife's shoulder while my sister was on the plane to get here. The German patient, bless his heart, calmly ordered his meal from the bed next door.
Everything changes when you lose the last of your parents. If you haven't prepared yourself very well you lose your entire self. As prepared as I was I lost a good chunk of who I was and what I thought my life would be. In the process of settling his affairs I lost a lot of the security that we expect to have out of life. And having lost that I lost my faith in myself. I never really realized how tied into my father my own thoughts of my self identity were. Thanks Freud, but it isn't about sexual maturity (which I know because my "type" is completely different from my dad. My dad actually influences whom I gravitate toward in the realm of spiritual assistance~ Sting. My dad is mostly Welsh.) In many ways, Mr. Sumner and my dad are a lot a like. Mr. Sumner was a milkman and my dad a farmer and neither of them understood the artistic drive in Sting and me. But by the end, they both gave blessings for each of us to be what we wanted. I can not say if this is the case with Sting, but I still feel that even with the blessing to go forth and create art I am somehow disappointing Dad. For the first time in my life, and lasting these last 8 years, I have considered being something other than an artist.
That would be like considering being something other than human. Oh I would love to be a Time Lord. But I am human: frailly, blessedly and incontrovertibly human. And I shall need a hefty dose of Sacred Love to help me find myself as I have always imagined myself to be and to be what my Dad blessed in his last conversation with me. But I am not ready for that just yet. If I were I would not have been so eager to distract myself with Matthias Reim these last 4 years. So as I listen to The Last Ship, I find the sequel to Soul Cages that I was looking for.
I wish that I had the liner notes that come with the CD. But alas.... not until I have some money to go get the CD. And that brings me to the reason that I am writing about Dad and Sting today. It being Sting's birthday, and that birthday falling smack in the middle of the Season of Loss™, there is no better day to think about who I still have in my life and how thankful that I am for them. Especially Sting.
I am so thankful for you, for your art, for your willingness to put your heart, soul,
experience into song to share with the rest of us. I do not know how I would have
gotten through so many of my life's experiences without your words
to comfort or convict and pointing the way under the Dog Star.
I owe someone else a birthday greeting. It is hard to write this one though because I feel so much empathy for him and one of the things that he struggles with... I wasn't really expecting to get that involved with that particular greeting. But I am an Aquarius and I am waking up from a long spiritual slumber so it probably should surprise none of us that I'm more involved than I should be.