One of a million things my mother bequeathed to me is my love of music.
On October 3rd, 2010, I got to see my favourite, international band of all time, X Japan. Before leaving for the concert, like any young person, I spoke with my Mom about it. All my life, she supported my musical interests, even if she didn't always understand them. I grew up cleaning the house to opera and Neil Diamond, or Donovan and The Beatles, even when I really wanted to be listening to The Rolling Stones or Sky Saxon and the Seeds. Mom's and my musical differences often opened fascinating conversations for us as well, like that day back in the 80's when she and I saw Boy George for the first time:
Mom (upon seeing him on MTV): "What the hell is that?"
Me, (rolling my eyes and sighing like any young adult): "Really Mother, what does it matter?"
Mom: "Well, when I sit down next to someone at a bar, I at least want to know what I am speaking to."
Me: "Why? Are you planning on falling into bed with that person at the end of the night? Really Mom, you're the one who taught me that it is what is in the mind that matters, and if a person touches your mind, it shouldn't matter what is between their legs."
Mom: "Hmm, I did say that, didn't I. I hate it when you throw my words back in my face, Brat." And then she would laugh.
Yes, Mom and I had these kinds of talks, even in my teens, long before Boy George hit the airwaves and decades before I was introduced to X Japan.
Mom didn't understand a word X Japan sang, and it baffled her that, now 57, I still loved heavy metal, cyberpunk and other alternative music, each cranked past the red line on my system. But Mom did understand that she'd left me a legacy. I still red-line my opera and classical music, right along with my NIN and Marilyn Manson. I play John Denver just as loud as Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park; Sarah Brightman as loud as Evenescence and...well, you get the idea. I...love...my...music; Delta Blues; Zydeco; Chinese Opera,Salsa...I can even say I love some country...some. K D Lang, Patsy Cline...okay, so maybe not so much in the country dep't.
Mom might not have fully understood my recent interest in Jrock, X Japan in particular, but what she did understand was that my eyes lit up when I spoke about them. I became animated, and driven. I researched them intensely, writing what was supposed to be a feature article on X Japan that became a small coffee table book about their history when the magazine I wrote for went under. I never posted that flawed history anywhere, and it is now a full year out of date, but I cherish the draft still sitting on my hard drive.
When October 3rd, 2010 rolled around, Mom knew I was as excited as any teenager. When I visited her that day, she simply had to know what I was wearing to the concert. Yes, even at my age, I dress for such occasions, and, if I do say so myself, I looked pretty fucking awesome, my facial lines a bitchin' fashion accessory to my full length white satin duster, my black bondage pants, X t-shirt and my black nails. When I floated home just after midnight that night, deaf as a door post, my ears ringing with the blissful strains of Silent Jealousy and X, I found out I had been approved to write the review of the concert for Jrock Revolution, an international web publication. I was past bliss, floating into the realm of rapture. And I was so looking forward to telling my Mom all about my evening and my good copy writing news the next morning. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't get to share any of it with her.
Sitting down to write my review for Jrock Revolution while the concert was still fresh, I lost all track of time, so when the phone rang at 1:30 am October 4th, I was surprised to see Mom's number on the call display. It was not unusual for Mom to be up so late. Like me, she was a night owl, but she never phoned after 10 pm.
I had no idea that answering Mom's call would take one of the most amazing nights of my live and transmogrify it into two of the most horrific weeks I have ever lived. A review of those two weeks can be found here: Death and the Ladybug I have no desire to revisit them here, but I will say that Mom was admitted to hospital for what we believed was a treatable condition on Monday, October 4th, and she passed away at 4:00 am, Tuesday October 19, leaving a gaping whole in the soul of a family who remain in shock, shouldering a devastaing grief.
Mother, Mom, Tutu to the Grand kids, was our Matriarch, and, for the past year since her return to Canada from 27 years in Hawaii, she was my daily purpose. Her death has left a gaping chasm in my soul and me exploring a sense of pointlessness, offset only by my belief in a future and in life as celebration despite my pain.
A few people have asked me if Mom's eventual death, precipitated on the night of the X Japan concert, has in any way tainted my love for X Japan. I didn't tell them that, while I sat vigil, I listened to, and watched my video of 'Last Song Tribute to hide'. I didn't tell them that this is what helped me begin to process what was happening. We all knew Mother was dying. No one was holding out any hope, although I personally did not abandon it until her final breath which I was present for.
Exploring my feelings for X Japan and Mom after Mom's death, I realized the answer to the question of taint was a simple no, that night hasn't spoiled my love for the band. On the contrary, as I posted recently on my Face Book:
"My mother got me through life. X Japan got me through her death." And it wasn't just their music that bore me up.
As a child, drummer/co-founderYoshiki lost his father in a manner that caused Yoshiki great confusion and anger. Then the band's guitarist, hide, died in a similar manner, decades later. And yet, despite his withdrawal, his personal confusion, and his anger, Yoshiki has not only survived, he continues to create, channeling his emotions into his exquisite art.
As a child of 9, I suffered a severe and violent trauma, one I suppressed for 49 years, until one day it would not lie silent any longer and erupted like Mt. Pinatubo, pouring sackcloth and ashes onto my 'perfect' life; costing me my sanity; my job; and eventually my home. Severe PTSD I was told. I didn't care. Sure, it was nice to have a diagnosis, but what I really wanted was my life back. Knowing I couldn't have it though, at least not yet, I was lost, and stayed that way until I found my two heroes:
Senator Lt. Gen Romeo Dallaire (Ret) and Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japan.
I knew who Senator Lt. Gen.Dallaire was long ago, but since seeing him speak late in 2008, as well as learning of Yoshiki's losses and tenacity around the same time, I named them my twin strengths; my saviours; and my inspirations in a time I could be none of these things for myself. When I feel lost or incapable, I look to them and remind myself that they have both suffered so much more than I have, and they have not only survived, they still create and move forward with a determined elegance and grace. And they assisted me in helping my Mother understand my condition when it surfaced.
Romeo Dallaire and Yoshiki Hayashi helped give me strength I could not find on my own, strength to forgive and to learn to love my Mother again, strength to not only become a caregiver to a woman with physical infirmities, but to love being that caregiver. And now they are giving me the strength to process her death.
Grief is a personal journey, a private one, no matter if we are surrounded by family and friends, or if we suffer alone. I don't know how Yoshiki managed to process the two sudden deaths he had to face, but his music, his freely expressed emotions; and his perpetual tenacity have held my hand through these two weeks since my mother's death and the four horrid weeks since her admittance to hospital. Without his musical presence, along with my little understanding of his past, I don't know that I would be as balanced as I am.
X Japan and my Mother are inextricably interwoven for me now, a melancholy joy that fills my heart with the love of my mother; the love of music she bequeathed to me; and my love of the music of my favourite band: X Japan.
To my Mother, although I said it often in life, I will reiterate it now in your death: thank you for your strength; your love; your infinite patience and your forgiveness. Thank you also for your sharp wit, your steel will, and your laughter right to the very end. I wish I could have rescued you from your pain in the end and I wish I could have explained to you what was happening to you. That will haunt me forever. I miss your daily calls, Mom; our discussions of politics both national/international and those of the building you lived in. Annie, Dorothy, Shirley and Celia all miss you horribly. You would have loved John Stewart and Stephan Colbert's 'Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.' I missed watching it with you as we had planned, just as I missed watching the November 02nd interim elections with you, as we had planned. You will be happy to know, wherever you are, that Christine O'Donnell lost BIG TIME! So, you can rest easy. LOL
To X Japan, I cannot thank you all personally, but I can post my gratitude here:
To Yoshiki: thank you for your vision, your ability to forgive and your strength to continue against both physical and emotional odds;
To Toshi: thank you for your angelic vocals, your strength and your ability to forgive;
To Pata: thank you for your perseverence and for being a fellow lover of cats;
To Heath: thank you for your gentle presence and love of your band mates;
To Sugizo: thank you for your cosmic energy and for blanketing the band and the planet with a veil of healing;
And to hide, without whom I would never had discovered X Japan: thank you for your spirit, both when you were alive and now, over a decade after your death. My Mother didn't touch as many people as you did, but those she did touch will miss her as severely you are missed.
My two favourite entities have now become woven tightly to one another, both bringing a smile to my face and a tear to my eyes, and not necessarily in the order one might expect. I love you both...eternally. Mahalo Mom, and Arigato Gozaimasu, X Japan