Or, an honorary transitive commemoration
Jerry Garcia would have turned 79 today. Eight days from now, 9 August, will mark the 26th anniversary of his death.
This span of time is a sacred period for certain people in my life, so I didn’t want to let the day go by without acknowledging it. I myself know alarmingly little about the Grateful Dead—maybe I wasn’t inclined to invest the effort in such long songs, which would be somewhat hypocritical of me, although I do believe everyone has their limits—anyway, the point is that I can appreciate genius and the unifying power of music even without being versed in the particulars.
Not too long ago, a childhood friend of mine lost her mother to illness. This woman was the biggest Deadhead I knew, and as she was such a fixture in the community I’m sure the biggest Deadhead most of our friends and classmates and parents and coworkers knew. She was famous, if you will, among other things, for loving them. Hardly coincidentally, her family were one of the most open, helpful, and dedicated I had the privilege to see in action. They gave freely of themselves. They were devoted to our school, especially its arts programs, and our city. I loved being around them, all of them.
My friend is now pastor of a church, because she’s gifted like that. In this week’s sermon she made sure her congregation knew how significant this early-August period is to her and how bound up it is in her memories of her mother. She also drew extremely effective parallels between the experience of listening to or seeing the Dead and coming together in worship. The principles are the same, she argued, even if the details differ.
So here is to Jerry. He’s obviously meant so much to so many over the course of generations. Someday I might be more familiar with his artistic gift to the world. Until then, he means a lot to people who mean a lot to me, and for that I’ve got to celebrate him.
Dedicated to Liz and Gail.
Image: Atlanta, GA, 1977