John Lennon died in 1980 on this Day. My Daughter Came Out to Play 18 years later.
My nubile teenage daughter with both “an old and a young soul” commented rather sadly that “it is a bit tragic” that her birthday is the same day that John Lennon was murdered, 33 years ago on this December the 8th.
He would have been 70.
She is 15.
It seems like only yesterday when our introspective, funny, melancholy and elusive Beatle was abruptly taken from us on a late winter evening in front of the New York apartment that he quietly shared with his beloved wife and young son, who was still too young to understand his father’s legacy.
I sat in shock as I listened to a radio hauntingly hymn the words to one of my favorite Beatles songs,
“I read the news today oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade…”
…after which I ran home to watch images of heartbroken fans from all around the world weep on television.
This was my first real sense of what it meant to mourn the death of someone great and iconic who I did not know.
My parents spoke often of how they remembered exactly where they were when “they heard the news” of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his younger brother, Senator “Bobby” Kennedy, and the great Dr. Martin Luther King.
“Really?” I remember thinking. How and why would they remember the exact moment of a stranger’s death?
Everything in my heart and mind shifted the moment I learned of Lennon’s death, a man I thought of as somehow everlasting, part of the soundtrack that was my life, even a member of my own family, if you will.
As the news of his death spread wings …the news became a surreal and transfixed moment in time.
What were once blocks of cold and grey pavement on New York City blocks, concrete neighborhoods of cold and stark and bleak, now were fields of cosmically-colored flowers and visions of soul, visited by chanters and singers and mourners who wept along to the songs ‘Yesterday’, ‘Imagine’ and ‘Norwegian Wood.’
Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Finally, “we all felt those words” in an all-too real manner that could not be measured in shivers and tears, or in signs or lofty descriptions.
‘Norwegian Wood’ was a song I did not even grasp the meaning of as I was only a young girl at the time, barely kissed, never mussed-up, and oblivious to the heartache that veined and pulsed through Lennon’s melancholy songs.
I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me . . .
She showed me her room, isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood?
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair…
It would be a decade or so later when I was finally able to actually understand the irony, wit, sadness, as well as unrealized joy that leered in his impossibly emotive lyrics and melodies.
On another cold day, more recent, as in yesterday, my flaxen-haired daughter once again mused about how eerie and tragic it was that her birthday seemed somehow marked by Lennon’s death.
Here it was again, but this year much sooner than I ever experienced before, as each year is literally passing by me like cascades of night lights that I cannot even see.
How could she be turning 15?
And how could John Lennon be gone for already 33 years? He would have been 70 years young.
“Not such a lucky, day,” she lamented.
“Quite the contrary,” I answered to her impossibly chestnut-colored eyes that stared at me sideways, with the light hitting just right, making her appear like some sort of fleeting and other worldly spirit.
I gathered myself to think a moment as she waited for me to elaborate. Because now, she was a wise-feathered teenage young woman with a heart of gold spread out onto her chest like the sun, a spirit like a warrior of past, and a sharp and imagined tongue. I could not be flip or passive as to my answer.
“Perhaps this was meant to be,” I said cautiously.
“Just think of it…Both you and John share a special date together, for different reasons and different circumstances, but just look at the impossible wonder of it. One leaving while the other arrives, and you have both occupied the same amazing and mysterious world.”
At first I was worried I may have said something too pretentious, perhaps even condescending or obtuse.
But to my relief, her almost 15-year-old self said…
“Perhaps you are right mommy,” she said. “Perhaps”, as she lifted her body upward as if she had really felt what I said.
“You do have an empathetic soul, like no one I know,” I said.
“Hmmm,” she replied.
I began to remember when my daughter seemed to feel the pain of other people, even as an infant. When people were sad, she was especially drawn to them, would hold out her small, ripe toddler arms to pat their backs and draw beautiful sketches for them, until they smiled.
The song ‘Imagine’ came to mind, as so did tears of both sadness and joy.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
“You are a great writer and seem to feel things often much too deeply, and then you create great work,” I said.
“Yes,” she hummed.
I thought back only a month ago when she took the time to share with me notebooks of her sketches, short stories and poems that literally moved me right out of my adult mind and into the spirit that was both her childhood and future self.
My favorite Lennon song, “In My Life,” came to mind . . .
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about then
In my life, I love you more
“So this is a great day to be born, don’t you think?”
I watched her look out the window with that wide pair of Eurasian eyes, the kind that only a young feline can boast, while she pressed her hand against the wind, feeling its strength and weightlessness.
“December 8,” she said.
“A good day,” I mused.
I got my true answer by watching her stillness and the way that she opened up her heart up to my words, and in the manner that she always possessed, while teaching me the gift of being present and yet freely moving towards another realm.
Happy Birthday to my middle daughter, and Peace to you John Lennon . . .
On this glorious moment and calendar day of December 8th, a day you will always share.