For 12 years, I’ve avoided listening to this song. In fact, I was so terrified to hear it, that I avoided the play altogether, the only musical that I probably could have gotten my husband to go see with me in the eight years we’ve been together.
This song is one of my absolute favorites because someone very special sang it to me when I needed cheering up my freshman year of high school. I walked into the drama room crying about something (probably a stupid boy), and she and long-haired, drama-god-wannabe sat with me on the floor and proceeded to serenade me with this song. Ever since that day, I listened to it – either on my worn-out audio cassette or in my mind – whenever I was in need of comfort. That is, until she died.
Though I can’t articulate the reason, it just hurt too much to listen to this song after she was gone. In fact, I avoided watching or listening to any of the musicals she was in, maybe partly because I was afraid doing so would erase the memories of her performances, which I try so hard to keep alive in my mind. A few years ago, I was invited by a mutual friend to see a play that I had directed her in during summer stock. I didn’t think I could go. I was terrified that I would no longer be able to remember how she played the part. Even more so, I was afraid that I would lose it in the middle of the theater. But I knew it was important that I go for our mutual friend, and so I did. Through watery eyes, I watched the performance, and the memories I had of her in that role suddenly became more vivid. Surprisingly, I left the theater feeling a bit more whole than when I had walked into it.
As I read everyone’s tributes to her on Facebook today, the anniversary of her passing, I was suddenly reminded of this poem:
He is Gone
You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
I scrolled to the never-before-played Jesus Christ Superstar playlist and double-clicked on the song. My heart pounded as I heard the first few bars. In a matter of seconds, I was transported back to the drama room, and I felt a familiar comfort that I had been depriving myself of for over a decade. I turned my computer up as loud as it could go, letting the sweet sound fill the room, the sweet memories fill my heart. In those three minutes, as my heart healed a tiny bit more, I let myself remember the feeling of her reassuring me that everything is all right.