The people you love die in dribs and drabs, with echoes of loss that resound over years and a lifetime.
Like my mother, yesterday.
Twenty-three years in her grave, I lost her again when the alert popped up on my phone that Glen Campbell had died. Glen Campbell and one more living link to a life and an era consumed by the drifting sands of time.
The clear bell of a voice, the understandable white trash of a man, the hillbilly who made it good and whose message and legacy were, in fact, gentle on my mind.
I can remember being a boy in the backseat of a car on a non-stop transit of Route 66 hearing "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and recognizing that it was a soundtrack of my mother's own fevered flight from a husband and a reality with which she, in the moment, could not quite cope.
I thought of the phone that keeps on ringing off the wall and I understood its loneliness and hope.
I can remember the television show, and the smile and the music and the peace in the home.
The notion of a sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind a couch, of some Joe who climbs poles and fixes wires and needs a woman more than he truly wants her. For all the music that chronicled or protested the war of my boyhood, the only one I understood or made me cry was "Galveston" and the wistful dream of a girl and a place far away.
And some inscrutable Jimmy Webb poem about Susie and a playground.
Back when children listened to their parents' music, this was what I heard, and was at peace with, and have found peace in over the years.
He found money, but not much happiness. A succession of wives, and Tanya Tucker, and the mugshot, and then the long quiet before the diagnosis.
The bosses got me tickets back in 2012 for the farewell tour, but when you know something one way you sometimes demur from meeting it another. And so I let it pass and left in two dimensions, and in the realm of dreams and memory, the man and what he represented.
And sometimes at night when I cannot sleep, and my family is upstairs in bed, I rewatch the documentary and see the decline, and feel the light flicker and dim, and think of better days that probably really weren't, but which are burnished and made dear by the fact they can never be revisited.
As my own mind weakens and words or memories are harder to recall, I hear the lyrics of his latest years, the words to his wife, and I wonder if he chronicles my future as he has chronicled my past. I wonder if he will now drift in and disappear from my consciousness, like so much of the life I have lived.
Or if he will be what he has been, a pang of joy and pain and connection, thrown randomly at me by the algorithm of an app on my phone.
Glen Campbell has died, and with him a bit of myself. A reality near universal to our kind.
I am not sure if it is my faith or my fantasy that had him met in the throng on the other side by my own mother, but I will cling to it nonetheless, and keep him a bridge between now and then, here and there, she and I.