20 Years Post-Kurt Cobain

A lot of sites are posting about Kurt Cobain today, 20 years after his death. Of those I’ve read, I find Time’s the most interesting since it has quotes from members of Soundgarden, Weezer and The Roots about Nirvana. I hadn’t planned to write anything myself for the same reason I didn’t review the 20th anniversary edition of In Utero…that icky feeling of capitalizing on a tragedy. But the significance of today and the memories it evokes are much stronger than any misgivings I felt before, so here we go…

I was a high school freshman 20 years ago and I, along with most of my classmates, was in love with everything connected to Grunge. I dyed my hair black, raided my brother’s and grandfather’s closets for old flannel shirts and traded mixtapes with friends made up of songs by Temple of the Dog, Tool, Pearl Jam and, of course, Nirvana. We all watched their videos on MTV with an almost religious fervor and had excited debates about their music in between (and sometimes during) classes.

Previous generations remembered where they were when Kennedy was shot and we all know where we were on 9/11. But, in between, I always remembered the moment when MTV News announced Kurt Cobain was dead. I was home sick from school that week watching our huge, ancient living room television and that’s where I stayed for days, glued to the news coverage in a way that was unusual in those pre-24-hour-news days. I cried as Courtney Love read her husband’s suicide note to a crowd of his fans.

Across the sea in Ireland the same day, Brendan heard the news on Irish radio. Which in itself is kind of amazing considering it was such a different time in music, in life, then. Long before the internet connected everything and everyone and gave local bands a worldwide audience. It was somewhat of a miracle at that time for the Seattle music scene and subsequently Cobain’s death to make such an international impact. Or maybe it wasn’t. There certainly hasn’t been anything since that sounds like this….

Meghan O’Rourke: The Long Goodbye: A Memoir

Meghan O’Rourke’s The Long Goodbye is a touching memoir regarding her mother’s death. The New York poet wraps the raw emotion of such a somber subject in graceful and eloquent prose. Meghan shares the various intense emotions she experienced during her mother’s battle with cancer and the agonizing void left in her mother’s absence. As she describes it, “A person was present your entire life, and then one day she disappeared and never came back. It resisted belief.

Recommended to me by Sonya Cotton, the book connected with me in a very personal way. I prefer not to reveal much about myself here, so I won’t go into details. I will say, though, that I’m always shocked when anyone says they’ve never lost a loved one or been to a funeral….both have been such frequent events throughout my life that mourning has been intricately woven into my childhood and adolescent memories.

The book also examines the way certain cultures embrace mourning to the point of ritual while others shun it completely, and how a person’s community affects their expression (or suppression) of grief. It is by no means a happy read, but it is beautifully written and brings a sense of emotional kinship and solace to those of us who have known loss.