December 8th

Kage Baker always said, she would rather remember people’s birthdays than the days they died. Certainly, it’s more cheerful. And she adamantly stuck to that, as much as she could; even as the years went by and round and down the drain, and more and more of our loved ones got that second date on their resumes.

Me, I can’t help it. I rejoice at beloved birthdays, but I also honor my dead on the days I lost them. For one thing, I often can’t remember what I was doing the day they were born. But the day I lost them … ah, that one is permanent.

Today is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I have no idea what I was doing on the day he was born, because I myself would not be born for another 13 years. My father was 10 and my mother was 5, and had in fact only met that year – neither one of them could have had even an inkling of Me. (I have it on the best of authority that my mom’s main squeeze that year was a black and white bunny named Mignonette.)

But I do remember December 8, 1980. It was a work day, which meant Kage and I had spent the day untangling crazy disability insurance claims (we worked for insurance companies for years) – I think it was one of the days we had to call our star nutcase, a self-styled Emperor of the Americas, Grand Maya and Chief of the Cherokee Nation named, I think, McDowell … We had pasta with butter and garlic for dinner. And we were watching Don Giovanni on PBS when  sister Kimberly called in tears to tell us that someone had shot and killed John Lennon.

Kage loved opera but she never watched one again. She said it was bad luck.

We cried for days. Millions of people did; a few even killed themselves, and I shudder to think what John Lennon would have said to them had the matter come to his attention. The whole world shared our loss, of course, and mourned. I don’t think a bard had been mourned by so much of the western world since that world itself consisted of a few coasts around the Mediterranean, and no one was sure where the man had been born.

People knew about John. They knew him. His was not a stranger’s death. And so we all remember, those who felt not just the guilty thrill of “Dead Famous Person!” but the real pain of “Oh, my friend is dead” …

Kage was right, of course, and it’s better to remember that someone lived in the first place. But it’s hard not to remember their death too, because the deaths of those we love leave such huge holes in the world. Thirty years has not filled the void left by John’s departure. And really – would you want it to? I wouldn’t.

Rock on, Johnny. I love you.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to December 8th

  1. Pingback: World Spinner

  2. David says:

    No opera, eh? I have the same thing with clock radios. I haven’t used one since I was woken up on September 11, 2001 with, “…again, a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center…”

    I was doing a radio interview yesterday for my show, and the interviewer was playing Lennon as his intro/outro music. He asked me if I remembered where I was when the news came down, and I did. But that memory brought back a flood of others from that decade, all just as heavy: Sadat, Ghandi, and attempts on Reagan, the Pope, and Thatcher (it was like assassination central, that decade). At home we had the hostage crisis, Mt. St. Helens, the Challenger, and the Valdez. Internationally, the drama at the Olympics in ’80, Chernobyl, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Glasnost & Perestroika, Tiannenmen, and Solidarity. Deserts Shield and Storm right after I joined the army. And AIDS. God, what a decade. I couldn’t even really respond when he asked me the question, because my brain locked up.

    Lennon was not as significant to me as he was to many, yourself included. I am sorry for the loss you and many others continue to feel at his shocking end.


    • Kate says:

      Dave – the 1980’s sucked, kiddo. Worst decade of my life, beyond all doubt. Still waiting for the refund and do-over, too.



  3. Buffalo says:

    I took John’s murder personally. I still do. A small part of the reason I’m a shrink is because I’m still trying to understand what thought process could possibly make it possible to extinguish the life of a person who the murderer says he idealized. Whether I understand or not doesn’t really matter, except to me, I suppose, and understanding doesn’t make it less of a crime against all humanity. I guess trying to make sense of senseless things is what we humans do.
    I took it personally because I depended on John (along with a few others: Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan) to write songs that would help me with the process of aging, as we all did it together. I have a feeling that John wouldn’t have continued to write and sing the same old songs. He would have been our voice, as we aged, but his voice was silenced, and, yes, I still feel the loss and pain.


    • Kate says:

      Buffalo – I have come to the conclusion that loss and pain never actually go away. Major bummer, man, but there it is. We form scars, time passes, some of the forms of grief become habitual and others are laid aside for new. But it never ends. We just get used to it. A wise man told me that how we do this is one of the great tasks of maturity. And, damn it, he was right. I am now composed of scar tissue- but on me, it does look good.


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