While en route to see Springsteen on Broadway, I told my husband I was ready to succumb to being buried and not cremated.
It’s a four-hour car ride from Boston to New York, allowing me a rare opportunity alone with my husband to discuss important topics. I am not ready to “go” just yet. I plan on having grandchildren and great-grandchildren. However, I think it is probably a good time in my life to figure this complicated death thing out.
For the past few years I have fantasized that my family would someday ride on my girlfriend Sue’s gorgeous boat to the middle of Vineyard Sound and scatter my ashes in the body of water that I have treasured for over two decades. My family would then put a plaque on a Shining Sea Bikeway bench in my honor where friends would take a respite from their biking, walking or jogging excursions to gaze at the ocean and remember how happy it made me — toes in the sand, drink in hand.
“We are Jewish, we don’t cremate,” was my husband’s strongest argument. I didn’t want to cave in to this traditional stuff at first. Somewhere around New Haven, Connecticut, however, I finally agreed to be buried some day, a million years from now. In a Jewish cemetery on Cape Cod, fifteen minutes from my happiest place on earth.
That night, as we settled into our seats at the Walter Kerr Theatre (the lucky recipients of a Ticketmaster code) to see our absolute favorite performer, I didn’t know what to expect.
I have seen Springsteen nearly two dozen times, always in big venues full of on-stage hoopla and rowdy crowds. I have been close enough to touch him and far enough away to watch him on a big screen. When I was young, I followed him around Europe. I fell in love with my husband at the former Worcester Centrum during the Tunnel of Love tour; and our first wedding dance was Thunder Road. Bruce and I have traveled through life together, going from my childhood twin bed to the various dirty and dingy mattresses that lay in college dorm rooms and New York apartments. Today he rests on my nightstand, within my Apple Music playlist. I listen to his voice on the many nights I can’t seem to fall asleep.
During the two-hour performance Bruce told the story of his life, peppering each part with classics and deep tracks. I was moved to tears not just by his voice but by his honest words. He played classics like Thunder Road and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out on the piano, something I have never witnessed him do. Bruce spoke of his love for his mother and his complicated relationship with his father. He paid homage to Clarence Clemons and he told his secret truth:
“I’ve never held an honest job in my life. I’ve never seen the inside of a factory or raced in the streets. Yet it is all I have ever written about,” he laid claim to in the show’s first five minutes.
I couldn’t process what I had witnessed for some time. As I lie wide awake, I could feel his energy with me in my hotel bed. I tried to recall every word Bruce espoused and each song he sang, Was he trying to tell me something? The next morning I felt like I had the answer.
“It was his eulogy,” I said after two cups of coffee.
“What are you talking about?” Hubby said. He hadn’t had any coffee yet.
“Last night. The whole thing. It was Springsteen’s farewell speech, like we attended his funeral,” my husband knew not to roll his eyes at me on our anniversary. Instead he poured milk into his coffee.
“I am not kidding. What do you do after something like this where you reveal all of your truths? Do you just go back out and put on a silly, rowdy show in front of thousands of fans?” I was convinced this was my last dance with Bruce.
“Well you know I always say, think about your funeral and work backward. Maybe Springsteen is dong that too. Doesn’t mean he’s dying.” My husband is a big-picture thinker. Most of the time he’s trying to make me a better person with his lectures. Some of the time it works.
I let his idea sink in. Maybe it wasn’t a farewell/I’m dying show. Maybe he just wanted to come clean about who he really is so that moving forward he can still do the rowdy stadium shows but feel really good that we all know the true essence of his character.
I would like to think I am a bit like Bruce. It took me a long time to share my truths, with a lot of missteps and bad decisions along the way. At some point we do have to think about our funeral and work backward. It doesn’t mean we have to jump to the finish line and miss the raucous laughter in the here and now. For the record, I still want the beachside bench. Hopefully it will include Bluetooth speakers that play Born to Run on repeat.