ANDREW MILLER: Bereavement changes us forever. Losing someone we love should do that. It must do that

Andrew Miller
The Nightly
3 Min Read
ANDRE MILLER: Bereavement changes us forever. Losing someone we love should do that. It must do that.
ANDRE MILLER: Bereavement changes us forever. Losing someone we love should do that. It must do that. Credit: Supplied, Adobe Stock

A concert review.

The black clouds of our mind can hang heavy, and produce different kinds of rain. It may be an overcast, floating drizzle of quiet-smudging tears, or on other thick-throat days, a sudden storm will produce a flash flood.

“After the laughter, the wave of dread.”

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Whenever I write about my elderly mother and the steep path we are inching down in her autumn, people reach out and say the echoes of their own experience prompted a few tears. Crying is weather — inconvenient at times, but for everything, there is a season, and only those truly liberated by psychosis believe they can control the elements.

“I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.”

If our primary objective is to survive and keep playing this strange game, then James Taylor, born in 1948, is hitting it out of the park.

From where we sat on the ground at Perth’s Kings Park under clearing wet skies last Friday night, the lanky septuagenarian effortlessly extended his charms and arms around every audience member, bringing us up, and onto the stage with him. His eyes twinkled brighter even than the pointless flashes of phone cameras in the good-natured crowd.

“Sing Carolina,” shouted one beer-enabled extrovert, so James held up his whole senior-print set list for us to see the schedule. Demolishing the fourth wall, he laughed “we have been practising our spontaneity”.

James Taylor performs at the 7th annual Love Rocks NYC concert in New York on March 9, 2023.
James Taylor performs at the 7th annual Love Rocks NYC concert in New York on March 9, 2023. Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

His masterful wit, voice and fingerstyle guitar technique remain superb — no flaws, just the burls, knots and smooth grain of old-growth timber. He was endearingly grateful to still be in demand, even here under the Southern Cross, so far from home.

James always elicits memories of one of my closest friends, Roger Strickland, because the song, Shower the People (you love, with love) was his credo. Roger even carried a similar persona — tall, with a mesomorphic sportsman’s easy-smiling eyes; just the right mix of genuine humility and formidable capability. A promising diplomat, Roger died in a plane crash 32 years ago at age 27, just like a rock star.

That loss, along with too many others, profoundly changed a lot of us.

“Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you.”

Taylor himself has famously visited the cold crossroads of grief, where we eventually choose a way to carry on, how much to hold inside, and what to carry on our unwelcome sleeve.

He mentioned his friend John Belushi’s death again at this concert — not simply as a “that could have been me” moment, but as a turning point in his perspective.

“I’ve been there, that’s why I’m here.”

Bereavement changes us forever. Losing someone we love should do that. It must do that.

Our youngest kid has been watching too much Bluey I think. After seeing her grandmother, weak in hospital, she pricked our balloons with a nonchalant reflection: “I wish life could still be precious, but not have to end.”

Taylor says music is spirituality, calling his songs “hymns for the agnostic.” In the cathedral of Kings Park, humanity swirled in the post-storm mist. He shared his songs about feelings, resonating and amplified amid a congregation of understanding. Music is not logical. It’s disruptive, and liberating.

Balancing the Grammy-heavy stage with their own gravitas was an all-star band, including the iconic Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover drummer Steve Gadd. In the end, the driving rhythm was clever kindness — something more convincing than mere technical accomplishment.

Rolling Stone called Taylor “eclectic, whimsical and accessible.” He has survived through fire and rain, the darkness of grief and addiction, and wrestled that into something creative for his bonus time — the years that others should have had, but did not.

As we slowly shift our grief down the right road, refusing to dwell on unfairness, it is more than reasonable to sometimes simply surrender to a soulful cry.

Rain is important. Let it rain.

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