Sunday, 3 June 2018

Willie Nelson: on death

I'm sitting here listening to 85 year old Willie Nelson's latest album Last Man Standing.

Willie Nelson has been a golden (guitar) string connecting me to my US southwestern roots and ancestors and my mama. I can recall as a wee one playing him singing "Crazy Arms" on repeat while I wailed along with him at the top of my lungs.

During my mother's stay with us in New Zealand, until her death last year, my husband would put on the Pandora honky tonk station of Merle or Willie or Johnny or George or the like. Walking by her room and watching her rock in that rocker, as she looked out on paradise, while some of the ole boys would be serenading her was a sight to behold. I'm glad I caught a glimmer of that on a little video clip:

We knew Willie was smart, but what is glaring at me on this last album is our pigtailed, reefer smoking icon's emotional intelligence blowing off the scale. 

It isn't as if he has been shy of the topic of death on previous albums, but maybe it's just where this has landed in my (and his) life trajectory-- I sit here pre-mourning him as I listen to his beautifully eloquent words on this new album.

For me it feels like Willie tiptoes into the world of us having to accept that we might outlive him; that we might have to wake up to the news of his demise one day and figure out how our culture will quite survive that loss. And yes, I know I'm not speaking for all of us, but I harken to believe I may be speaking for the majority of us.

The first song I experienced from this album was seeing the video for "Something You Get Through."

While watching this beautiful song being sung by the man himself I could feel he was telling us-- I'm not immortal. Let this song help you; whether it's for when my time comes or for your own personal loss.

Our family has lost too many loves this past year and this song landed right in the middle of my heart where the pockets of grief still reside. (((thank you Willie)))

How true are the words: it's not something you get over; but it's something you get through.
 As his below video of the song he wrote in the throes of his grief after Merle Haggard's death shows: Willie does death with his heart and eyes wide open. Bless him.

And we are all better for that fact. He Won't Ever Be Gone could be the song we write about Willie as well. 

The video of his eight year old recording of Pearl Jam's Just Breathe (with his son) is the note we shall leave this conversation on as we send Willie love and thanks for his contribution to our culture and his attempts at helping us look at the full spectrum of our lives-- beginning to the very end.

One of the lines in the title track of Last Man Standing says: "it's getting hard to watch my pals check out, it cuts like a worn out knife."

We feel you Willie. And we feel the tender place where that wound would hit us should your beautiful spirit leave this planet before our own. 

Stay around if you can. But if the ole timers are strumming you home, we will understand.