Lived Through This
I Wrote 60 Songs While My Mom Was Dying
I wrote sixty songs during the three months that my mom was dying. I was disgusted with my muse, who had ghosted me for years and chose the end of her life to set a fire in me.
But you can’t deny it—you can’t be holding your mom’s hand and have a melody loop in your head and not run upstairs to record it on your phone.
You can’t not feel like a teenager, holed up in the room you grew up in, ten feet above a deathbed, playing your guitar with the amp turned down.
You can’t not feel like a bad son, being trained by a hospice nurse to interpret the metaphors mom is speaking in—such as “help me swim against the tide,” and “can you please show me what’s inside”—just to fit those metaphors in the lyrics of your songs.
“I feel so sad,” mom said. “About life. I thought things would be happier for you and me and everybody. But you do what you can.”
“I’m right here,” I said. But I wasn’t. I needed someone to be. So I called up Lucy. Lucy was an aide. I hired her to come live with mom and me.
Lucy took a cab from New Jersey. She showed up on my doorstep with all her groceries and luggage. She claimed the back room. She slept in the bed I slept in as a kid. She became my second mother.
“I screwed up,” mom told Lucy and me. “There were supposed to be bagels. But there are no bagels.”
“Your mom,” Lucy said. “She is traveling.”
There was an abandoned house on the north shore of Long Island I used to live in. Sometimes I wouldn’t want to wake up mom and Lucy, so I’d pack my car with the guitar and mic and amp and drive to the abandoned house and set up a mini-studio there. Sometimes I’d be thirty seconds into the first song, and Lucy would call and tell me to drive back because mom was calling out for me.
I told my family I was writing the songs because I was intending for mom to hear them before she died. I don’t know if that’s true. I just didn’t know how to explain to them how the muse had me on strings, and I didn’t yet appreciate how it was insulating me from the horror playing out every day, and I didn’t know yet that…