Coletânea de Death Cab

The day before he lapsed into peaceful unconsciousness and died, Jim spoke to his friend Bob, who was overseeing his care at home twenty-four hours a day.  Bob and Jim had started out as physicians together, spending fifteen years as partners in an internal medicine practice.

Bob told Jim how knowing Jim had changed him.  Jim responded, “The part of me that others take with them and the part of them I take with me. . . that’s my concept of the afterlife.”

On the long return drive from the Service of Remembrance, as the night grew black, I caught a flash of light in the rear-view mirror.  It was a cartoon-cloud outline of brilliant coral light as the sun set on an otherwise gray night.

At that moment, after numerous misbegotten detours, I finally had reached a part of Massachusetts where a favorite radio station abruptly resumed the identity I sought, transforming near the Connecticut border from a country station back into The River.

The radio stations pre-set in my car are artifacts of Jim’s expansive love of music, some of them transmitted through one of our daughters, with whom I spend a great deal of time driving.  My family always took driving time as an opportunity to educate me, about music and many other things.

This time I was very much alone, but every snippet of music brought back a family memory or a memory of Jim before we had our own family.  During one family road trip to upstate New York, I simply could not get the group’s name straight on a snappy song that was getting a great deal of air play, and my children and Jim repeatedly corrected me: “No, mom, it’s not ‘Butcher Block for Babes’; it’s ‘Death Cab for Cutie.’”

Dozens of miles later I inevitably would come up with another dramatically wrong permutation on a song or group.  My daughters would roll their eyes.  Jim would laugh.

As I drove alone through the night, my spine aching, the song that marked the switch back to what we considered the real 92.5 was from an album I know Jim would have listened to and loved, Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark”:

Love of mine
Someday you will die
But I’ll be close behind
I’ll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white 
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of the spark. . . .

You and me
Have seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary
And the soles of your shoes
Are all worn down, the time for sleep is now
But it’s nothing to cry about ’cause we’ll hold each other soon
In the blackest of rooms

If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
Illuminate the “no’s” on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark
And I’ll follow you into the dark.

Lyrics—like nearly everything else–now are tinged not only with the prism of continuing grief, but the particular sorrow of losing a spouse, of wondering how I possibly can continue to get by given the amount of me he took with him.

I had heard this song only once before, and interpreted it very differently then.

A recent medical study—which, frankly, I think bereaved spouses could do without—detailed some acute medical perils people face in the immediate aftermath of a husband’s or wife’s death.  At first I heard this song in somewhat of a clinical way: as expressing the intersection of the physical shock and dangers of loss with a wish, born of grief, to follow one’s loved one, with dispatch, into “the blackest of rooms.”

I don’t hear the song that way now.  I hear it the way Jim meant what he said to Bob: when he died he took a considerable part of me with him, not in the sense of leaving me unwhole and unable to cope, but its opposite: he left so much of himself with me, to strengthen me and keep me going, and he also took me as his companion, beside him, wherever he went.

He knew as much as a mortal can know about whatever lies beyond.  Whether it’s dark or light, I’m with him there.  But he’s also here with me.



(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon

About Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like forensic evidentiary issues, jury instructions, and expert scientific witness preparation. She also is an adjunct professor at a law school on the banks of the Charles and loves that dirty water, as she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2020 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with Wordpress protocol and the numerous other wee buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.
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27 Responses to Coletânea de Death Cab

  1. Catherine says:

    Just beautiful, Steph.

  2. Chris says:

    Steph – While I open your blog with anticipation, I’ve also learned I need to be in the right place to experience it. Through your writing I feel a strong connection to you, Jim, and your family. But I really need to stop reading them at work. Although I find each entry beautiful on many levels, the frequently tearful result creates an awkward moment when someone pops into my office. But, that’s life I guess.

    • Enmanuel says:

      It is unusual for me to find something on the cyberspace that’s as entertaining and fascinating as what you’ve got here. Your page is sweet, your graphics are great, and what’s more, you use sources that are relevant to what you’re saying. You’re definitely one in a million, good job!

  3. Denise Glennon says:

    Your writing is so beautiful – I feel closer to you and Jim from this blog.

    You are getting stronger.

  4. karen mccloskey says:

    I have to agree with Chris…I have to start reading your posts at home! Stephanie, your writing touches anyone that reads it. I admire your strength.

  5. Denise Glennon says:

    I am trying to limit myself to two comments per week – but I did have one more thing to add…. 🙂

    Jim liked the Pretenders a lot – and made me a tape of their 1984 album called “Learning to Crawl.” The group had been on a 2 year hiatus after 2 members died of drug overdoses. Chrissie Hyndes, the lead singer, was devastated. I remember Jim telling me this album was very emotionally difficult for her to make. There is a song on the album which seems like a Christmas carol, but Jim told me it’s really about her saying goodbye to those lost band members.

    He’s gone
    2000 miles
    Is very far.
    The snow is falling down
    It gets colder
    Day by day.
    I miss you.

    • Adiel says:

      Great stuff, a really interesting read added to bookmarks so will check back for new content and to read other people’s comments. Cheers again.

  6. Stephanie says:

    I love to get comments, to see what resonates with people in different ways. At this point it may come as no surprise to you that another song that quickly followed “I Will Follow You into the Dark” on my trip home was none other than “Back on the Chain Gang,” one of Jim’s all-time favorite songs from the very same album.

    Jim not only knew music: he played it, knew what was behind it, what influences inspired it; he thought deeply about what shaped it and what it meant.

    He and I frequently joked about the songs which would go on the “crime tape” he was going to make for me some day, in honor of my line of work. It would have to include Springsteen’s “Johnny 99,” John Hiatt’s “Tennessee Plates,” Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives,” and Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning.” I would have known of none of that music had it not been for Jim.

    When I suggested including “Back on the Chain Gang,” I learned it wasn’t a crime song at all, but a memorial Chrissie Hyndes had written for her bandmates–but had started out with a picture she found of Ray Davies of The Kinks, her daughter’s father. It was about moving on, metaphorically, after grieving both a broken relationship and her friends’ deaths: “I found a picture of you/Those were the happiest days of my life/Like a break in the battle was your part/In the the wretched life of a lonely heart/Now we’re back on the train/Oh, back on the chain gang” (

    • Denise Glennon says:

      Ooooohhh … ahhhhh – Yes – he loved that song!!

      • Sanjay says:

        That is lots of inspirational stuff. Certainly not knew that opinions could be that varied. Thanks for all of the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here.

    • enidualc says:

      I am impressed, I must say. Very seldom do I see a blog that is both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

  7. Abro says:

    In re-reading Gerald McDermott’s ‘Seeing God: Jonathan Edwards and Spiritual Discernment’, a passage arose that parallels the overall message of the post. One of the manifestations of our love toward God will be a joyful hope when contemplating our future glory. Sadly, we do this too infrequently. We should not grieve as others who have no hope, especially when we have confidence in the salvation of the deceased. If nothing else, perhaps a bit more envy would be understood in light of the glory they now enjoy and that awaits us.

  8. Marvelous blog. I felt your post was very interesting. Kudos again – I will visit again.

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