About a week ago, I sat down after dinner to watch a movie on DVD with my wife. We were just looking for some entertainment and relaxing contrast to our day of work. Nothing extraordinary.
My wife selected a movie called: “Crazy Heart” from our local public library. Dinner concluded and the dishes cleared, we put the movie on. “Crazy Heart” is a movie, starring Jeff Bridges, about an aging country music star, whose life and career has been plagued by alcoholism and all the poor choices and irresponsible behavior that so frequently accompanies addictions.
Most of the way through the movie I thought it was entertaining, well-crafted and interesting to watch. But I did not find it extraordinary until near the very end. To be sure, it had good character development, seemed well acted, and I enjoyed the music. Jeff Bridges apparently has been a fine amateur musician for most of his life. He did all his own singing and playing in the movie and I was impressed. I thought he did the music justice.
Near the very end of the movie, when Jeff’s character is really down and out and trying to make a long-shot comeback, there is a scene where he sings a song in a small club. The song is called “Brand New Angel”, although I did not know that at the time that we were watching.
One criticism I have of the movie is that in many of the singing scenes it was difficult to understand the lyrics because Jeff’s voice is low and sort of mushy. It works well musically but not if you are trying to catch the words. Oh well…
A little while into the scene with him singing Brand New Angel, I found myself weeping so hard I could hardly catch my breath. My wife asked what was up. But I could not answer.
We need a little bit of background here: About 8 months ago my father died at the age of 94. He had actually been doing quite well, but suffered a bad fall, hit is head very hard and never recovered. You also need to know that for most of his life my father had been a virtuoso violinist. For my entire life, sharing music was the heart of our relationship. Since he died on June 1st of 2011, I have had my ups and downs. I still miss him and have my periods of intense sadness and feelings of loss. But I am settling down with the idea that I still have all that he taught me and shared with me, even if not his ongoing physical presence.
For the last few months I have been able to think of my Dad with more gratitude for all that I received from him and for the richness of our relationship much more than the sadness and loss of not having him around. I even told myself that I was mostly through the grieving process. My Mom died about 7 years ago, so I thought I knew something about the grieving process and about the experience of losing a parent. Turns out I still have much to learn.
Back to the movie: So there I was sobbing my heart out. I had no idea what was going on. It was clear that the music had deeply affected me and triggered something deep and very sad within me. But it was not obvious what the specific trigger was. As I mentioned, Jeff’s singing, although musically satisfying did not make it easy to understand the lyrics of the songs. And in this scene, they were nearly completely indecipherable. I had no idea at all what he was singing about. I just knew that I could not stop crying and that I could not catch my breath. My wife kept asking what was going on, but it was awhile before I could talk. And at that point I did not know and so I could not have told her anyway.
We stopped the movie for about 15 minutes while I tried to settle down and catch my breath. When I was able we watched the rest of the movie, which was just a few minutes more, since this scene is near the end of it. When the movie was over I still had not clear idea of what had happened and what had triggered such a strong emotional reaction from me.
We watched the end credits together and saw that the song in that scene was called: “Brand New Angel”. I was still really puzzled. So I hunted up the lyrics on the good old Internet. (I swear, you can find the most amazing things there!) When I read the lyrics two things happened. It became clear what had triggered me and I began to weep all over again. It turns out that “Brand New Angel” is about a violinist who has just died and is on his way to heaven. The song is a plea to heaven to “Open up the gates and welcome him in..” No wonder!
So here is what I think happened: The lyrics in the scene were not clear enough for my conscious mind to understand. But my subconscious mind heard them with perfect clarity. All told, a rather amazing experience. I have since gone back and listened to the song a number of times. I can just about get through it now without breaking into tears and being overwhelmed by the sadness welling up from my heart. I guess I have more to learn about grieving and loss. There is more to it and it seems to take longer than I would like. It comes and goes, sometimes ambushing me when I least expect it.
by: Jeff Bell www.MyHealthOptimizer.com
Also by Jeff Bell: The Day It All Changed