How Love Lets Go

In spring of 2013, in that crazy, whirlwind month when Levi joined our family, I was in the middle of a 6-week-long free songwriting course from, taught by legendary songwriting instructor Pat Pattison of Berklee.

The course focused mainly on prosody, a concept that means getting all the parts of a song to work together. As a sample of how little changes like word emphasis can make a big difference, Pat used a song he had co-written with Scarlet Keys, using "before and after" versions to demonstrate his point.

And what a difference.

The song was great in the first version. The second version blew me away.

Not only that, it had been demoed by Liz Longley, and one of Pat's students (David Bawiec) had written and recorded an amazing string section to accompany the soulful vocals. The finished version became one of my favourite songs of all time.

Okay, for those of you reading this on a feed reader, you need to come to this page and listen to this song, either now or later. (I know the embedded video links don't go through. Maybe a Soundcloud link will:)

Here are the lyrics:


Words and music by Pat Pattison and Scarlet Keys

I had just caught my breath
I was starting to smile
I had just gotten hold of my mood
Then I brought the mail in
Went into a tail spin
When I saw the letter addressed to you.

And just like that I broke in half
Funny what your name can do

Little reminders that take me back
Whenever I find them
Letting go would be so much easier
If I could lose you all at once instead of in

I'll be out with some friends
I'll be doing just fine
Until somebody laughs just like you
Or I'll reach into a pocket
And find an old ticket
To some crazy movie you took me to

And just like that it all comes back
I feel myself coming unglued

Little reminders that take me back
Whenever I find them
Letting go would be so much easier
If I could lose you all at once instead of in

Little flashes I keep on having
I guess that's just the way love lets go

Little reminders that take me back
Whenever I find them
Letting go would be so much easier
If I could lose you all at once instead of in

At the time I first heard this song, I kept thinking of my mother-in-law, who was deeply mourning the very recent loss of her husband. And obviously, this song is talking about the loss of a romantic partner.

However, the way it describes the process of loss is true of any kind of grief--including child loss.

Several months ago, I signed up for the daily email from Day 134, which I just read tonight, starts with this paragraph:

Saying good-bye is not a one-time action. It is a process with many different steps, difficult steps. It’s okay if you don’t feel ready for this now. Understand that saying good-bye occurs gradually over time.

How timely! I was doing just fine today--okay, maybe not "fine", because I felt a low-level distress most of the day that may have built to a cry session or may not have. As it turns out, though, I had to look for something in the piles covering the darker recesses of my desk tonight, and in the process handled many of the little reminders of Levi. Reminders that I have left here on purpose--but which were the catalyst that brought the tears to flowing. Being unable to find the object of my search only added to my distress.

Pieces. There is no "one-time thing" when it comes to grief.

A friend of mine who lost her husband to cancer only a few weeks after Levi died last summer asked me in a text last night, "Did you go through a time of anger that Levi left?"

Yes. In my case, I wasn't angry at Levi (though I told her I could see being angry at a spouse for "leaving", even because of death.) But I was very angry at God for a while, until he showed me the difference between him "being in control" and "being responsible." And even though I know that there is no "why", I still have flashes of anger and ask the question anyway.

But mostly, my anger is reserved for myself. I have worked through a good many of the emotions of grief, but forgiving myself has proven extremely difficult. I'm trying. Really. But it's really, really hard.

So, yeah. I get angry. And I get sad at the least expected moments. And I have a Sea Can full of Levi's things that I don't even want to try to get rid of yet, despite the fact that I keep saying I will.

But I also look at this little wooden train on my desk and remember when Levi put it there--within days of his death. And sometimes, instead of being sad or angry, I smile, because I remember his sweet face, and his pudgy hands arranging and rearranging the cars "just so". I remember the intense look of concentration as he put them there for me--a little gift to keep me company as I worked, the best kind of gift, in his mind. I remember his smile, and his joy, and his energy.

I remember how he came to my desk as I worked and gave me hugs before bed and said, "I love you, Mommy."

I remember so many moments where I interacted with him while I was in this chair. (One of the benefits of working from home--my kids can still talk to me even when I'm in the middle of "working.")

Pieces. That's how love lets go.

Levi's train.

Levi's sock.

More reminders that grace our dining room.

Eventually, I hope that when I have these "little flashes," the memories will bring the smiles and the joy to mind without the overwhelming sadness. Oh, I know those memories will be forever tinged with the bitterness of losing him--but I'm okay with that, as long as the sweetness of the memory remains.

Later, and even now, I can marvel at how the master writer of my life is rearranging the "pieces" of my own soul to make the finished product more beautiful, that I may be a blessing to others--and that they may see the work he has done in me and glorify him.

No matter how many pieces I may be shattered into, it is never too many for him to heal.

I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
— Jeremiah 31:13, ESV