Hopefully without revealing too much plot, this post’s love songs are about Deanna in The Transition Piece, and how grateful she is for the real love she truly had with her husband.
Understandably, grief seems like an entirely negative experience, particularly when it’s new and fresh, and particularly when the changed (not lost…changed) connection was strong and unique. But grief does evolve, and eventually, in Deanna’s case, it evolves into gratitude for what she had…for how she was loved, for the good memories she made, for how she felt when she was with her husband, for that connection she was lucky enough to have. She eventually realizes that while she hurts, she had a great gift. A heart broken with grief is evidence that that heart loved and was loved back fiercely. That’s something to be grateful for.
Of course, gratitude doesn’t immediately happen for her. At first, grief only feels like hollow loss. There’s not only the pain of accepting that who once was there, who she counted on for so much, is no longer, and will no longer be there, but also the pain of personal regret. Deanna dwells for a while on all the things she wished she would have said and done so her husband knew without a doubt how much he meant to her…for every mistake she ever made…every (even unintentionally) unkind word or deed…every missed opportunity…every time she took that connection and his presence in her life for granted…desperately wishing there was anything she could do to get him back. There’s a scene where she’s talking about not being able to recognize herself without him.
At first (and for a while), her grief feels like Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe.
That’s how Deanna began to heal from grief and loss…by just breathing. By just making it through another day, working on accepting that it happened. And accepting that accepting it sometimes takes a while. There’s never a time over the course of the book where Deanna doesn’t miss her husband. And there may never be a time for the rest of her life that she doesn’t miss him.
But by the end of the book, Deanna’s grief has transformed into something that isn’t constant sadness and empty loss. She becomes able to recognize her own identity apart from the connections she’s made, and gains the ability to make new connections and see the parallels in her relationship with her husband to the potential future of other people, and she realizes that she wants other people to find and experience what she was fortunate enough to have. She moves more toward Hello Young Lovers from Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.
Hello young lovers whoever you are
I hope your troubles are few
All my good wishes go with you tonight
I’ve been in love like youBe brave young lovers and follow your star
Be brave and faithful and true
Cling very close to each other tonight
I’ve been in love like you
I know how it feels to have wings on your heels
And to fly down the street in a trance
You fly down a street on a chance that you’ll meet
And you meet, not really by chanceDon’t cry young lovers whatever you do
Don’t cry because I’m alone
All of my memories are happy tonight
I’ve had a love of my ownI’ve had a love of my own like yours
I’ve had a love of my own
I know, right? These two songs could scarcely be more different. The styles. The writing. The delivery. The time frames they represent and the time in which they were written. The emotions they call forth. Just Breathe makes me weep. Like…ugly cry sobbing. And Hello Young Lovers feels like a toast I’d give at a wedding if I were brave enough to give a toast at a wedding. Just Breathe is rough and raw and maudlin but modern somehow. Hello Young Lovers is traditional and formal but…joyfully triumphant almost.
But ARE they that different, really? Maybe I’m the only one who can see the journey from one to the other. But that’s how I saw Deanna’s grief…and her love…move and change and grow. And I think these are two great love songs. They are songs about grief, but they are songs honoring the good fortune of a great love.