"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Never are we reminded more of the preciousness of life as when someone special in our lives is taken from us suddenly. I was 14 in 1980 when I heard John Lennon had been shot and killed. I didn't know much about his life after The Beatles, accept that he was still alive and lived with Yoko Ono in a place called The Dakota. That confused the hell out of me, since I heard he lived in New York.
As a musician, I was really into The Beatles as a kid. My parents had their albums, and they always seemed to be on the radio. When some of the girls in my class wept that he had been killed, I didn't understand what for. It actually seemed a bit contrived, too. They painted peace symbols in eyebrow pencil on their cheeks and temporary tears at the corners of their eyes to show their permanent sadness. "The world suffered a big loss for Peace today", one said. Still, I didn't get it. Idolatry was too big a word for me to use back then, but I understood its usage. Did they understand that?
What I did get, however, was the huge musical loss we had just been dealt. If ever there was to be a chance that The Beatles would reunite to play a concert, release a new album or even go back on tour, it was certainly most permanent now. And that struck a strong emotion in me: despair. What could be or could have been. Missed opportunities and potential represent some of the saddest of life's realities.
As I grew older, I began to learn more about my new hero. I learned which Beatles lyrics were his- and it made sense. He was at once sarcastic and satirical, roguish and romantic. I learned about his activism and ornery side, too. I read books about him and his children. I even understood Yoko, his much maligned widow who still evokes a great hatred among people that is at best irrational, and at worst the opposite of what John Lennon was about.
He made me laugh, too. Like in a scene from Hard Day's Night, while the band is goofing off, he is seen quietly, yet curiously, holding a bottle of Coke up to his nose and snorting. Subtle was John's forte. In today's New York Times, Yoko Ono tells a story about how she and John used to laugh together. And, one of her best and favorite memories of John was when they would make tea together. Despite the myriad emotions we feel when we lose someone dear, the best way to overcome the grief and appreciate our time with them is with laughter.
For me, however, it will always be the music of John Lennon and The Beatles that bring the fondest memories; and for my daughter, they're the kind I can pass on.