Grief not only reveals us, it gruesomely splits open our rib cage, takes our organs, beating heart, tired lungs, tearful eyes, and spreads them about for the world to see. I’ve found that either you mercifully, humbly, and slowly gather your insides, piece by piece, and rearrange them in a way that agrees with the stubborn sorrow… Or you allow your empty, cavernous being to ignore the ache, and you leave it all behind, the damaged heart, tearful eyes, tired lungs, and become an emotion-proof shell. In my case, that is exactly what I chose to do. I decided to leave my insides eleven hours behind, in Washington, DC.
I was Tennessee-bound, and Casey’s passing was nothing but a fading memory in my autumn-tinted rear view (or so I thought). It was simple enough, I got the call, attended the wake, attended the funeral, drove straight to my last few shifts at work, then threw an air mattress and my puppy in my little blue Hyundai and pointed myself and my ambitions toward Music City.
Without family, friends, or, most importantly, familiarity (having never truly lived outside of the Northeast), I created a very modest life for myself in the South, with a sublet, a job, and a whole lot of culture shock. Still, my scattered, misplaced organs throbbed on a daily basis, and my phone rang with more reminders, more sad news from home, and more undeniable hardship. I had just lost a best friend. Additionally, cancer had overtaken a friend’s healthy and wonderful father, drugs had claimed the life of a young brother, a mother’s heart had stopped beating, even my childhood dog had become a casualty of illness.
Now, there’s something about being a human that lends itself to humanity… Funny, huh? No matter where you are, who you become, great relationships stick to your bones, important memories permeate your mind, and suffering becomes this haunting neighbor you just can’t seem to evict.
If you’re a fixer, like I consider myself to be, what are you able to do to protect you and those you love from this obnoxious Wilson, who just keeps peeking over the fence? Eventually it becomes a pathetic, human, realization that you can’t get rid of him. You can’t mend suffering, you can’t hem broken hearts, and you certainly can’t fix death (I know, optimism at its finest).
For me, to fully grasp this realization feels like waving the white flag. Yet, I know, as we all do, that it’s true. It’s all true. So, one October afternoon, as I sat in Tennessee, my mournful, escapist brain allowed a memory to tip toe in. The memory of one of my best friend’s, Casey’s, humorous and still optimistic voice informing me of her leukemia diagnosis over a crackly, impersonal cell phone connection, a year and a half earlier. Then another memory of that same 21 year old girl receiving an autographed care package from one of her favorite musicians, Ingrid Michaelson, when she had left our college bubble and was isolated to her home and the hospital.
You see, on that October afternoon, these memories sparked the idea to start my own charitable business, Bandade. Not many days later, I kicked off an Indiegogo campaign to fund a community of charitable, nationally touring, musicians who volunteer to benefit the American Cancer Society and arts education. Being in Music City, I was fueled with inspiration and connections, then I was pushed even further by incredible support from all my loved ones in the northeast.
Bandade will allow fans to purchase autographed Bandade Signature T-shirts from their favorite musicians. Hopefully, some of these shirts will even be great gifts for music-loving cancer patients, like Casey’s care package was for her. A percent of every Bandade transaction is donated. It’s one community, one uniform logo, and one cause. It’s homegrown and small, but it’s my little attempt at redirecting some of the shittiness in this world.
Slowly, humbly, I have begun gathering my insides, fitting the tearful eyes, damaged heart, and tired lungs into the jigsaw of my personal human experience. Who knows how long it will take? Anyone who has ever experienced loss knows that grief is just a bitch. Cancer and illness are these taunting, vile plagues that drag the steadiest, most upright souls to a howling slump of humanness.
Everyone loses and, one day, everyone will be lost. Still, what I have learned over several months of endless effort is, you can give it hell. You truly can. There is nothing better than screwing up a tragic situation with a ton of hope. It sounds terribly Shawshank Redemption. But I’m not going to tell anyone that their tiny hammer is going to break through a solid concrete wall.
Still, you never know. All you can do is react to the hand you’re dealt. My Bandade effort started as a distraction, but has become much more. It’s my totem against inevitable suffering. Maybe it will inspire, maybe it won’t. But I sure know that, no matter where you find yourself, no matter the success you gain, no matter who you become, profound relationships stick to your bones and your mind will always be steeped in meaningful memories.
Please visit our site, Facebook, and Instagram to see what artists are already involved! I hope to officially launch this endeavor by the end of the summer. But, as one person, I really need the help of music fans to spread the word. If you’re interested in becoming part of the Bandade Street Team, shoot us an email. Musicians, fans, and those interested, let’s do something awesome while we can.