Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Music is such a powerful instrument for the grieving. If you read here regularly at all, you know how much it has been so for me. It has the power to soothe, to cheer, to help us find and touch the raw places when we feel the need, and, most powerfully, to conjure memories of our lost loved ones and the times we spent with them alive.

I heard U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” on my iPod last week and have been thinking about it ever since. Just a few notes of it and my reaction was visceral—I was overwhelmed by a memory.

When Hudson was seven weeks old, Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States. Ed and I had campaigned for Obama all through the fall, raising money and knocking on doors and, on Election Day (with me 8 months pregnant), helping make sure that every person who wanted to vote would be able to. We met Joe Biden and Michelle Obama both, and impressed upon them how important it was to us that they win the White House, because if they didn’t, we feared for the world into which our first child would be born. I remember feeling my heart in my throat on our election night drive back from Richmond, where we were doing voter protection, when even our home state of North Carolina turned blue.

Jessica had come for a visit during the inauguration and while we decided not to brave the inauguration itself, we decided we’d go to the mall for the inaugural concert the day before. It was cold but not nearly as cold as it was on Inauguration Day. We bundled Hudson up into a warm winter suit, tucked her into the bucket car seat and stuffed all kinds of blankets around her. There were points where I was more worried that she was too hot than too cold. We took her on her first ride on the metro and once we got down to the mall, I sat on the grass and nursed her as if such a thing was totally normal. She promptly fell asleep and did us the favor of staying asleep the rest of the afternoon, even in the midst of all the din, waking only on the train back home but still not fussing.

Lots of stars sang at the inaugural concert, but none was so anticipated or cheered (at least by me) as U2. I had heard the expression “their spirits soared” before, but I’m not sure I’d ever truly experienced what that meant until I heard the first chords of “City of Blinding Lights,” the second song U2 played (after “Pride (In the Name of Love)”). I remember so clearly hearing Bono say what an honor it was for four boys from North Dublin to be there honoring the future president of the United States with a song he had chosen for his campaign. When Bono looked out over the crowd of hundreds of thousands of people and sang, “Oh, you look so beautiful tonight,” I remember thinking it must be true.

When I hear the song now, I still physically remember that feeling of my spirit soaring in that moment. Hudson’s birth had changed me forever and I had nothing but hope and optimism about our future together as a family. And standing there on the mall with all those people, our faces shining brightly from both the cold and the electricity in the air, I had nothing but hope and optimism for our country and the world.

So much has changed in not even three short years. So much. As I was preparing to write this post, I did some reading about “City of Blinding Lights.” I guess I was not even that surprised to learn that Bono has called it a song about “innocence and naiveté,” that its theme is innocence lost.

Can you see the beauty inside of me?
What happened to the beauty I had inside of me?

And the thing is, I can still see the beauty, and I still have hope. I hear that song, and it takes me back to a very distinct moment in my life, a time when my sweet girl was alive, when we were full of hope and expectation for her future, for our future. And although our lives are radically changed in the wake of Hudson’s death, even though I may never know hope in the same way again, I can still touch that place inside of me that knew that kind of hope. I have music to thank for that, and I’m grateful.

Some photos of our trip to the mall that day, and a video clip, from somewhere not too far from our vantage point, of U2’s performance:


  1. "even though I may never know hope in the same way again, I can still touch that place inside of me that knew that kind of hope"
    So powerful, Mandy. Thank you, as always, for sharing.
    Rachel C.

  2. Oh, I just love the one of her peeking out of her blanket swaddling.

  3. What an uplifting post, have such strength and resilience within ~ I am glad for you that you can still reach that place of hope through music.

    (And I love the peek-a-boo picture, too!!)


  4. Oh Mandy.. so much of this connects with my mind tonight.. especially the lyrics "
    Can you see the beauty inside of me?
    What happened to the beauty I had inside of me?"
    The picture of Hudson peeking out is so precious.. thank you for sharing these... xo

  5. Every time Seasons of Love comes on my ipod during a run, I think of Hudson, run a little faster, and take that time to think about the many good things in my life.

  6. You are 'right on'. Music has a power to move us - to comfort & soothe.

    Loved your post. My son died 25 years ago just before his 16 birthday in an accident. The music still speaks to me today - so many years later.

    As a registered nurse I've been in the ER side of that meningitis. So fast - so unforgiving.

    Keep writing. It is so healing as I've found only the last few years. Wished I'd started years ago.

  7. Thanks, Mandy, for visiting my blog. I had read your post about the planes and it touched me. Reminded me so much of my son. And your Hudson was so little and already liked them.

    Every time I hear (or see in the hospital) of another child's death, it just takes my breath away. Not another family who will have to go through what we've been through.

    Keep on keeping on. Baby steps. I learned that a day at a time in the beginning was way too long. I had to say to myself, "can I make it for the next hour or the next 30 minutes".

    Thinking of you,
    A fellow traveler