On September 18th at 4:30pm, I was reading Kurt Cobain’s Journals in bed next to my mother as she took her last breath.
She’d really been ‘gone’ for about a day and a half. But after a week and a half of barely leaving her side, listening to her breathing becoming more and more erratic and raspy, that moment I most feared came and there was simply silence.
I spent the next 24 hours in shock, actually feeling relieved that she was no longer in pain. It had been an excruciating final week. But then something washed over me, and I knew that I was forever changed.
I feel hollow. Did we do everything we could to save her? Did I say everything I needed to say before she left? Can I ever truly be happy again, or will I always feel this anger for my mother being taken away so early? Will anything ever be able to fill the emptiness I feel inside me?
I can see the love from the rest of my family and my friends and even strangers as they’ve sent their condolences in the form of flowers or their presence. But I have a hard time feeling it. And when someone talks to me, I can see the look in their eyes….will this be the thing that finally breaks me?
But like almost everything in my life, this chapter begins and ends with music. Unfortunately, I will forever remember this Insane Clown Posse show as the last night before my life took this grim freefall. And it will end with Slayer.
Slayer was the first band I saw after my maternal grandmother died, so something felt right about having this be my first show after losing my mom.
I was originally supposed to see this tour early this year with Testament opening at the infamous Cow Palace in San Francisco. After being postponed due to Tom Araya’s surgery, I would have to settle for seeing it in San Antonio, with Anthrax opening….though I missed their set.
With my best friend in town from New York, this would be her first real metal show. That brightened the evening, watching her, wide-eyed, taking in this new scene.
Once I finally found where I was supposed to go for media check in, the man in charge escorted us straight to the photo pit since Megadeth was moments from going on. It’s a good adrenaline rush to go from outside the venue to being inches from the action so quickly. I barely had time to put my earplugs in as the members of Megadeth took the stage one by one.
Having recently finished reading Mustaine created a different kind of anticipation around seeing them for the first time. I had heard terrible things about Mustaine’s voice on this tour, but since I’m not a fan of his voice anyway it didn’t sound like it deviated from the records much to me.
For some reason I didn’t expect Megadeth to be as showy as they were. There were quite a few over the top moments in the set- the brief appearance of Vic Rattlehead to some synchronized moves and theatrical instrumentation. It kept me thoroughly entertained, picking up the slack where the music didn’t necessarily do it for me. Except for ‘Symphony of Destruction’- I liked that song in high school and it was exciting to hear live.
I don’t remember exactly what sparked it, but suddenly I started reflecting on the part of Mustaine where he finds God again. Perhaps it was hearing Rust in Peace from start to finish, reminiscent of the three little words I’d been hearing so much the past week. I have had to sit and listen to so much religious drivel lately. While I understand the draw of religion in times of pain like this- it would be easy if I believed everything had some higher purpose and that my mom was really in some magical place called Heaven right now- I have never felt further entrenched in my beliefs that religion is bullshit. When a priest came to anoint my lapsed Catholic mom, the only thing I connected with that he said was Lamb of God. In her last couple days, when she was in what the religious tinged book about death that hospice gave me refers to as having one foot in the afterlife, I tried to get her to tell me what she was dreaming of…..what she saw. I wanted her to tell me that she was starting to see what she had often wished for- deceased relatives, friends and pets waiting for her like a big party on the other side. I wanted to believe it. But she said there was nothing.
My friend was rather startled by how mellow the crowd was, how faux-violent the mosh pit was. I explained to her that this did not seem normal to me. There were families, older couples, and people who looked like your normal metal crowd but certainly didn’t act like one. It was weird….and not what I was wanting from this show. I was expecting to see some physical manifestation of the pain I feel inside, and instead, everyone was….happy. This made me feel worse.
But I still had Slayer to count on, and I knew that their religious tone would be more in line with how I feel. I believe this was my fifth time seeing Slayer, so I know what to expect. But I would have to say that this was the time when the idealized version of Slayer in my head that predated me ever seeing them finally broke. When you say that you are going to a Slayer show, people less familiar think that you are about to experience hell on earth- something so violent, evil, and sacrilegious that they can’t help but look at you differently for saying it. But in reality, it’s not as scary as a lot of the shows that I have been to.
Slayer are always good live, but I just had a hard time getting into the set, except for ‘South of Heaven’->’Raining Blood’, of course. Because we were in San Antonio, which has a huge Hispanic population, there weren’t the usual white supremacist sightings in the crowd. And there weren’t any protesters outside that I saw. I guess the show seemed sterile this evening, without some of the character the crowd generally brings to the table.
I left the show that I thought would make me feel better- a type of commiserating, if you will- feeling worse. I realized that the music of Slayer didn’t even come close to the darkness that I feel right now. And realizing that was…scary. I thought that I’d come into this show fresh off an experience so intense, so painful that only a certain subset of people understand it; the type of thing that inspires lyrics like “close your eyes and forget your name, step outside yourself and let your thoughts drain as you go insane”. But I realize that what inspired lyrics like that may be a faded distant memory for them, while I’m still in the midst of mine.
So I close this chapter of my life much more quickly than I thought I would- the summer of my discontent. I’m not entirely sure what happens next.