In the beginning, there was music.
Back in 1998, in the days when AOL was a thing, I went into a music chat / trivia room about 1980s song lyrics, and met Don Shepherd.
We talked about Lionel Richie songs, great singers, guitar players, and more. Then we just kept on talking.
Seven years and lots of plane trips from Florida to NY and back later, he packed up his life and moved to New Jersey to be with me.
We married a year later, and just 3 months before our 5-year wedding anniversary, he would die suddenly from cardiac arrest.
At first, I could not hear music.
It was too hard.
It hurt too much.
Every song was a reminder that I would never hear him strumming his guitar again, in our apartment.
We would never sing and play together, just for fun.
He would never use my leg or knee to try and figure out a chord or a beat again.
He wouldnt ask me to come into the living room and “listen to this song I just threw together. Do you like it, Boo?”
We wouldnt rehearse Natalie Merchant or Fleetwood Mac or Beatles or Aerosmith songs anymore.
Or sit on the couch and listen to CD’s.
Everything about music started to hurt.
For a long time, I stopped singing altogether.
I didnt feel like singing, when Don could no longer accompany me.
I didn’t want to sing without hearing him smile and say: “I love your voice.”
I didn’t want to sing and then hear the echo of the silence where his guitar chords used to be.
It was hard.
And then one day,
for absolutely no reason,
I turned off the comedy station in my car, and instead, turned on the music.
I started to sing again, and then I didnt want to stop. The melodies and harmonies became comforting. The lyrics seemed to hold power.
The eight guitars sitting in our apartment needed a home.
I kept three of them, and gave the others the kind of homes that Don would have been proud of.
Now, when I sing, I often feel our connection again, inside the rhythms of the music.
It has now been seven years since his sudden death.
I am ready, soon, to slowly pick up the 3 guitars I have of his , and learn how to play them.
He was self-taught, and very good, and he used you tube videos to learn songs and chords.
He joined a guitar site with message boards and other guitar lovers, and they posted free lessons for each other online.
When he died, the people that hung out with my husband on those message boards, were incredibly kind to me.
They raffled off a handmade guitar, and gave the money raised to me, so that I could get by.
They made t-shirts in his honor, with his screenname listed on them.
Last week, I posted to them that I have been thinking about learning the guitar, at a slow pace, on Don’s guitars, using the lesson videos that he made to help me, and the lefty guitars he left behind. Im a lefty too, so it’s like it was meant for me to play them.
The guys from the site were so supportive and thought it was awesome that I was ready to bring the music back to life.
When he died, we were casually working on Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival”, for me to sing and him to play.
The beginning of that song has a kick-ass guitar solo that he was about halfway through learning.
How perfect and poignant would it be, if one day in the future, I could finish learning it for him, and be able to play it on his guitar, and sing the song?
I am in no particular hurry to do all of this, but its something that has been floating around in my mind lately.
At the beginning of my book, it says: “this book is dedicated to the life, the death, and the memory of Don Shepherd. I will meet you inside the rhythms of the music.” How lovely, if I could meet up with him through music, again and again and again, just by strumming and singing. Alone, together.
Thats the thing about songs and lyrics and strumming b minor ….
you don’t have to go anywhere, and yet, you are transported.
In the beginning, there was music.