I Can’t Stop Thinking About My Brother Tonight

by Kristen King on November 25, 2008

(www.sass-pants.com) — Most days I’m fine. It’s been almost 6 years since my brother Jesse died. But tonight, I can’t get him out of my head. These nights, playing my guitar is what gets me through. Or maybe it makes it worse. I honestly haven’t decided yet. Yet. Like it just happened. But it’s been 2,071 days.

I try to play other songs on these nights, but my fingers keep drawing me back to the song I played at his funeral, on his guitar. We were 5 years apart in age, and we were finally getting to the point where we had stuff in common. I had picked up guitar (not well, I must admit) in high school and then he followed in my footsteps at about the same age. We jammed when I came home from college to visit. If you could call it jamming, I guess, and to be fair you probably couldn’t. But it was so much fun.

So when he died, and they asked if I wanted to say something at the funeral, I just knew that I needed to play his guitar since he would never be able to play it again. I picked “Family,” by Dar Williams, and my best friend, who bawled with me when I arrived in New Jersey from Virginia for the funeral, harmonized with me on the chorus.

I haven’t played my guitar much since then, or his. It’s really only these nights that it comes out anymore. I feel too sad. And playing the song I played at his funeral doesn’t really cheer me up, but it’s the only thing that feels appropriate, somehow. A major causal factor to my limited repertoire, I’m sure.

Other than that day before we drove to the cemetery and the occasional open mic at the bar where I worked during undergrad, I don’t really play in public. But tonight I’d really like to share this with you. So here I am, crazy hair, mistakes, and all.

Feed readers, view this video on Viddler.com.

Do you have a song that’s the only one you want to hear or play when you’re going through darkness? What is it?

Contents Copyright © 2008 Kristen King

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alan Sorum November 25, 2008 at 1:11 am

Kristen – Hope you don’t stay up too late tonight. My son died in May and the song that I keep relating to him is The Woods by Patchouli. Thanks for sharing.

2 Jessica (aka @kikarose) November 25, 2008 at 1:19 am

Oh Kristen,
I’m so sorry you lost your brother. I can’t imagine that kind of loss. It’s something of a blessing that you have the guitar to make you feel close to him when you miss him, though I think that song is going to haunt me forever now.
Sending hugs, futile hugs, but hugs none-the-less.

Jessica (aka @kikarose)’s last blog post..My critical eye and ever ready camera

3 Alison November 25, 2008 at 1:27 am

We don’t know each other but I’m sending you a big hug – and a cheer for the music, mistakes and all.

After my dad died when I was 20 all I could listen to was Dylan – hadn’t really been much of a fan before that but for some reason that was all I wanted to hear. It’s still my go-to music for the bad times.

4 V-Grrrl November 25, 2008 at 6:48 am

My sister died on my 20th birthday. Last time I saw her alive was on Thanksgiving,,,So, I can imagine what you’re feeling. I wish I had a ritual or song to honor her memory.

V-Grrrl’s last blog post..Thanksgiving preparations

5 Kristen King November 25, 2008 at 10:41 am

@Alan, thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear about your son. I think losing a child must be the worst kind of loss. How did you know that I’m a night owl on the sad days? ;)

@Jessica, hugs help, futile or otherwise. I appreciate the sentiment and the support. Thanks for stopping by.

@Alison, Dylan is a good choice. It has rawness to it, I think, that’s really appealing in vulnerable times. So sorry about your dad. Thank you for the kind words!

@V, you honor her memory by remembering her! I would love to hear about her next time we meet for coffee if you feel like sharing. {{hugs}}

6 Lori November 25, 2008 at 11:53 am

What a beautiful song (and a beautiful voice you have). I’m fortunate in that my losses have been few – grandparents having lived long happy lives and beloved aunts and uncles, all older and having lived full lives.

Oddly, my sadness comes every holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving. I mourn all those long-gone people who used to crowd into Gramma’s house for a meal made by a saint (she was). The noisy Gallaghers, the rowdy Widmers, the assorted visiting cousins from the Leslie side and beyond….at the first strains of “over the river and through the woods…” I well up. I miss them all. I can’t yet watch A Charlie Brown Christmas without crying at the end. Those songs, oddly, are my release.

Lori’s last blog post..Tunnel Vision

7 Kristen King November 25, 2008 at 1:03 pm

@Lori, thanks, sweetie. I know what you mean about certain memories and events taking you right back to times with those long-gone folks. Well said, and thank you for sharing that. You rowdy Widmer, you.

8 *tss* November 26, 2008 at 1:17 pm

question: song, etc. that gets me through darkness
answer: walt whitman, crossing brooklyn ferry
reason: w.w. insists that he is speaking to me, now, and in some respect that i have unwittingly, simply by living, have spoken/am speaking to him.
he is as much in my ear with his physical breath as he is in my imagination with his imagery – and i believe, when i read crossing brooklyn ferry, that my breath was in his ear – simply because he believed it to be.

i have a distinct memory of collapsing in my roommate’s arms on the white linoleum tiles of my dorm room the night i learned of jesse’s death.

the next day was a work day. i remember sleeping late, alone in the house. my mother called me to find out what i was doing.

i was scared to go to your house. you weren’t home yet. i didn’t know what i would do or say. what would be expected of me. my mother told me that i didn’t have a choice. that i had to go. she said, do whatever cathie needs you to do.

when i arrived, your mom was on the phone. cubbied into that phone corner in the kitchen, the long phone line limp, running the length of her body to the floor. the kitchen was full of women. it was full of women. i don’t know what they were all doing. making food. someone cutting fruit salad. i said, what can i do? someone told me there was laundry on the line. i went through the backdoor, up the stairs there, and i took the laundry down. i waited, alone, for a ghost. for some feeling at my back, or some sound, maybe, or something. but the backyard was only the woods and the cows and clothespins in my pockets.

later, i sat on the front-front steps with a bowl of fruit salad. my tears fell into it. each bite had a certain sensation – something that verged on being unpleasant. it was sweet & salty & too full of flavor, too full of water over-filling my mouth. i have a memory of alan asking me if i was ok.

how completely unlike any other experience, those days and nights that we found ourselves in. we were learning what mourning was. wrapped into each other in sleeping bags at night, eating and not eating, surrounded by teenagers and mothers, a thousand pieces of fruit in baskets, fast-arriving sympathy cards. funeral clothes. hours and hours of receiving. and candles at the track. armbands. a full, full church.

my parents attended jesse’s funeral in a room below the sanctuary because there was not enough space in the main room.

one night i told my mother, sitting in the family room, that i didn’t know what would happen when everyone went home again, when the cushion of community dispersed. my tears welled out of sheer helplessness, then – but let me tell you this now:

you are my tactile sister. who knows a hundred million beautiful details: who can describe anything. you terminate two-dimensions with language, making any space that holds your text – the air or the page – pregnant with your relief. and you know the details of your memory, the things you learned in those first weeks have become wrapped like a seed in the fruit of the 2071+ days that have followed. kristen, i love you. don’t be afraid of the stories you have to tell on your dark guitar-nights. tell them as slowly as you need to, but tell them deeply – to yourself, if to no one else, until that seed of memory shows you its true nature: that it is as much an image of the end of a life as it is of life’s continuance.

walt, from crossing b-klyn ferry:
It avails not, neither time or place—distance avails not;
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence;
I project myself—also I return—I am with you, and know how it is.

9 Kristen King November 26, 2008 at 2:54 pm

@tss, I can’t believe I didn’t know about that experience until now. I regret not asking, but I delight in your retelling of it here and now. You were a rock that week. I don’t know how you managed it. But I’m grateful for it. More than I know how to say.

Do you still have the beekeeper’s daughter poem? I’d love to read it again. I’ll e-mail you.


10 Katharine November 26, 2008 at 9:12 pm

Oh, Kristen, I’m so sorry that your brother isn’t alive and hanging out with you. You have a beautiful voice. Keep writing and singing your grief and memories.

Katharine’s last blog post..Lean Times in Publishing

11 Kristen King December 1, 2008 at 9:53 am

Thanks, Katharine. :)


12 IrreverentFreelancer December 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm

I love this new, more intimate glimpse into Kristen! This was hauntingly beautiful, by the way. The one song I cannot hear without thinking about my mom is Tears in Heaven, but there are a lot of them that bring her to mind … songs I played on the piano that she particularly liked, a favorite hymn and You’re Only Human, the last record I remember her buying for me before she died, not so much because I wanted it, but because of how much the message spoke to her. I kind of think of it as her final lesson to me.

IrreverentFreelancer’s last blog post..A Screw You! with a Heart

13 Kristen King December 4, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Thanks, Kathy. It’s neat you have so many songs that remind you of your mom. I really like the thought about You’re Only Human. :)

14 Stephanie December 29, 2008 at 10:47 pm

That song is beautiful.

I was googling sad songs because that is what makes me feel better. It helps me release my saddness and I cry like a baby.

I lost my brother November 22nd, 2008, a little over a month ago. To make it even harder I lost my Mom December 6th, 2006. It is difficult.

Like your brother, my brother was young. He was only 26!

Thank you for letting me vent on your page. I hope you find peace. A good book to read is Everyday becomes a chance by Max Lucado. It is simple and helps a little.

15 Me August 14, 2009 at 8:43 pm

My brother went to school with Jesse, and I came across the yearbook and I sat there and read the dedication in it, so I don’t know why but I decided to look online. So I found this, and it was very touching…

16 Jamie June 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Kristen – it’s been years since I had a conversation with you or your family – but for some reason, I’ve been thinking about Jesse today and stumbled upon this site after a quick google of his name. I remember where I was when I heard. I remember gathering with folks from WHCC. I remember it was the night before my sister closed on her house – the same house that I was gathering in with friends to mourn your brother.

You have such a gift with words, and are so very talented. I imagine Jesse would be just as phenomenal.

Hope you are well.

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