My mother died on October 14th, 1997, two days after the singer John Denver (although we all thought he died on the 13th because 5.28pm in Monterey was 1.28 am the next day in Ireland). When I heard of Denver’s death I was distracted with concern for my friend who was a huge fan all his life and introduced me to the country singers serious back catalogue (I would later name my dog ‘Denver‘ in remembrance of the late singer). It was while I was caught up in worry for my friend that my mother finally passed away after a long illness.
The weird juxtaposition between both of these deaths would have led me to latch onto a song that was rolling around in my head over those few days and I suppose it would have made sense to select that song when thinking about blogging about a song that means something to me. But even though Sunshine On My Shoulders still makes me a little sad when I hear it, it was another song that constantly reminded me of my late mother and drove home not only how much I missed her but how her death was such a major milestone in my life.
The song I’m talking about is On A Bus To St. Cloud by Trisha Yearwood.
On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota
I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you
Like a silent prayer
And once on a street in New York City
With the jazz and the sin in the air
And once on a cold L.A. freeway
And it’s strange, but it’s true
I was sure it was you
Just a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud
I imagine everybody who loses someone close has at least on one occasion thought they glimpsed the person on a street or in a shop. I know over the weeks and months after my mother died I caught some elderly woman in the corner of my eye and for just a nanosecond, I thought it was her. It’s fleeting but the sickly lurch your stomach makes and the sweeping sadness at the realisation that it couldn’t be her has to be experienced to be understood. In my case I became fully convinced, just for a second or two, that I had glimpsed my late mother on a bus that slid by me on a Dublin street. That shock and subsequent shattering disappointment have remained with me to this day.
Shortly afterwards I heard this song and it struck home. Even though it’s a song about the end of a relationship, the lyrics fitted my memory of that day and that bus and that glimpse so well, I couldn’t speak for a long time after it finished.
And you chase me like a shadow
And you haunt me like a ghost
And I hate you some, and I love you some
But I miss you most…
The chorus chilled me with its accuracy. It expressed the thoughts and feelings I haven’t even to this day been able to express. Those lines and Yearwood’s haunting voice spoke of my anger at her loss and the love for her that I treasured all my life. It named the fear I carried that that love would wane, or fade, or simply change in a memory. But mostly it sang of how much I missed her and always would. R.I.P.