nothing left to do (but smile)

My mom died when I was ten years old.

I was too young to understand. Not that any age is a good one to watch your parents go, but ten is too young to grasp the finality of it.

She was beautiful.

We used to lie in the dark listening to music -- classical and jazz mostly -- and with a crayon, "draw" on a piece of paper what the music made us feel. Then we'd turn on the lights and compare pictures. This was the kind of woman my mother was. Creative. Loving. Encouraging.

At the time of her death, my parents had been divorced for two years. I was living in San Francisco with my dad. She was in Vancouver, BC and that's where the funeral was.

I remember that moment I found out like it was just yesterday.

My dad sat me down and told me my mom had died. I laughed. I know ... a nonsensical reaction, but my reaction nonetheless. I can't escape that fact anymore than I can change the fact she died. I don't think I believed it. He told me again and the smile began to fade. I ran back to our office, where I had a 5th grade project underway -- something about photosynthesis; plants and light. In the same room, we had one of those Nautilus machines. I swear I lifted more weight right then than I could now. Then I went outside and walked around and around the block on which we lived. Right down from the Russian embassy in Pacific Heights.

I walked for a long time.

Days later, we headed up to Vancouver for her funeral.

The trip is a complete blur compared to that so crystalized moment of discovery. But I do remember a couple things. The maple trees were full. The funeral room with the casket (closed) at the front was packed. Tearful faces were at all times, it seemed, pressed to mine.

And then the question: why?

Isn't that always the question? I'm still asking. Only difference is, I'm no longer looking for or even hoping for an answer.

Years later ... and I mean, years later ... I had just spent my bonus from my I-banking days on a new Taylor guitar and was plucking around on it (this is a few years before I would begin to take song-writing seriously) when I stumbled onto the simple picking progression that makes up Smile. And the lyrics just began to flow. Almost as though someone else was lending a guiding hand. The song was done before I knew it.

And it summed up my final resting place perfectly ...

Once a light has been extinguished, there's really nothing left to do but love the memory of the light. And that's what I do when it comes to my mom. I smile at the memory of it all.

- lyrics -