It was 30 years ago today…

9 Dec

I don’t remember 30 years ago yesterday, but I remember 15 years ago. I was a sophomore in high school at the pinnacle of my Beatles fandom. My friends and I all wore shirts to commemorate  15 years since  of the death of John Lennon. We were really sad. For a day, we grieved the loss of his talent, musicianship, and personality. For months we had been talking about John as if we really knew him.

John making a face while standing with Julia, his mother.

In our minds, we did. We’d spent hours listening to Beatles music and then to records from John’s solo career. We counted how many times the word “and” was used in  the 90 minute “Beatles First Us Visit.” (I don’t remember but it was well over 400).  We invented stories about how John was like our older brother, witty and a prankster. We implemented words from John’s Liverpudlian lingo into our own vocabulary. We spent days reading about John’s life, trying to understand him and trying to figure out what the heck he saw in Yoko Ono. Back in those days when my teenage self needed something to believe in that was bigger than who I was, the Beatles were my religion and I was a devoted follower.

That said, on December 8, 1995, we mourned the loss as if we had just heard the news for the first time. I can only imagine how hard it would have been the actual day that John Lennon was shot. I’ve read biographies of Mark David Chapman to try to understand what he was thinking and I had to stop because I decided I didn’t really want to be in the mind of someone capable of killing like that. I’ve visited the outside of the Dakota ( creepy as it is) which is John’s old apartment building in New York City where he was shot. I’ve gone across the street to Strawberry Fields in Central Park where fans put flowers on a commemorative mosaic for John.  I went to an art show in Chicago that had John’s original drawings. Someday I will make it to Liverpool and see the Cavern Club. I will find the real Strawberry Fields.

So what did I do to grieve the loss of John yesterday? I listened to some Beatles songs. I connected with a couple of my old Beatle fan friends. And I thought about how far I’ve come since those years. How John Lennon helped me connect to a part of myself that I didn’t know before.  How the Beatles helped me learn to love and appreciate music.  How my devotion to the Beatles, while an early demonstration of my counter cultural instincts, was also a predictor to my later  follower ship of and relationship with Jesus. (more on this in later blogs).

As a Beatles fan,  I learned how to be devoted. I learned how to be loyal. I gained patience. I gained vast knowledge about something very quickly. I learned how to love something so much that it hurts.  And 15 years ago on the anniversary of the death of John Lennon, I learned how to grieve.  Since that time,  I’ve discovered that grieving John’s death, as hard as it was for my 15 year old brain to comprehend, became for me an invaluable first lesson.


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