How did Alphaville’s “Forever Young” teach me to live? I was 17 years old attending St. Matthew's High School and living at the Bridgeport, Connecticut. Sounds idyllic I know. Many of my grammar school friends from Danbury went to the same school but were on different routines, social schedules, etc. as I now bussed in from 30-40 minutes away. Though I had plenty of friends I was alone, terribly alone. The pain of sexual abuse, bulimia, and typical teenage hormones had caught up with me and were crushing. I couldn’t live another day. So, I learned how to die. I researched how a New York City commuter had taken his life after a devastating day of trade, consumed by the impossibility of facing his family. I understood his hurt, his hopelessness. The only thing I felt was pain, my pain not his. Learning of his fate was like finding a road map. Where did he stand? When did he jump? I made my plans. I had basketball practice all week from which I would ride the train after practice back to Bridgeport. That was as good a time as any. No need for a note, my parents would just figure it out. So, it is settled, Tuesday after practice will be fine. Tuesday morning came. I shuffle up the side stairway from the bus to class. There seem to be hundreds of shoes clomping all around me, going to the same place but yet a different place all together. As I round the corner in the top hallway Mary steps out and says, “Did you hear?” Did I hear what? The words bounce in my head but I don’t speak. She continues, “Did you hear about Mark?...he jumped in front of a train last night.” She sees that I am staring at he in disbelief but thankfully there is no way for her to know my thoughts are more about me than about Mark. Mary continues, “He is gone.” The bell rings, we are late for class, I scurry on. Mark had been dating our good friend Katy. Katy is in our “circle.” (I guess I am in the circle too. But somehow it seems they are all “in” it, and looking in. I am looking out). Mark was two years older than Katy and so we still thought of him more as Mike’s older brother, rather than Katy’s boyfriend as we had known Mike all throughout grammar school. Now, none of that mattered. And now his family was shattered. The town mourns. I don’t go to practice. I don’t ride the train. My next memory is from Mark’s wake. There must have been 400 people at the wake. All I remember hearing is, Forever Young’s lyrics, “Do you want to live forever?...Forever Young.” All I remember seeing is pain, no one’s pain in particular. 800 eyes, none of them dry, none the same but all identical. That night none of the 400 people had blue, brown, or hazel eyes, just eyes of sorrow. It is then that I conclude I am not worth dying. I don’t know these people and they couldn’t possibly care about me. But they don’t deserve to return to this place to go through these same motions for another teen meeting another train. I avoid trains for a while. I never jump. Slowly, I begin to notice and enjoy ocean breezes, bright butterflies and thousands of other simple blessings.
How did Alphaville’s Forever Young teach me to love? I am 32 years old, living in Stuttgart Germany and about to have my first child. “Can you believe how insensitive he is?” I ask. My therapist pauses before answering and gives me a chance to rethink the story I have just shared: Saturday night Jim and I had been invited to dinner. Klaus picked us up at the S-Bahn station while Anja remained at their country townhome preparing a delicious green curry. We have an incredible time filled with laughs and plans for the baby soon to arrive. It is one of those too-good-to-be-true life experiences for me. (A girl with LaGrange, GA barbershop roots isn’t likely to be communicating in a native language of a foreign land with true friends…). After delightful and cheerful good-byes Klaus drops us back off at the station early for our train before heading home to finish the dishes with Anja. Jim and I are alone. This is not a downtown train station, more of an open few platforms in the country. It is empty. Yet my heart is full. I am with my husband holding my baby. I yearn to be even closer to him and to bring him closer to me so I ask, “Did you hear what song was playing when Klaus picked us up?” It was three hours earlier, but without hesitation he answers, “Alphaville, Forever Young.” It is not one we hear but every few years or more and remember it was a German station, so it stands out. I get encouraged and press on literally dying to bring the love of my life to the deepest recesses of my soul, “You remember what that song means to me?” Of course I had previously shared with Jim the whole story about Mark, me being suicidal in high school, etc. I want him to hug me, to hold me, to tell me how pleased he is that I am living, I am his wife, and we are growing a family together. Jim walks away, looks at the timetable posted on the cold cement wall and after about 2 minutes says, “You know if we walk over to platform 3 and catch the S-4 we can get home 8 minutes earlier.” I walk down the stairs, over, and up stairs as he instructs but I am cold and crushed. How could he ignore my feelings? How could he care more about a schedule, a table of facts than about my soul? Doesn’t he know I don’t care about getting home 8 minutes early when the only person I want to come home to is right next to me? By Thursday I found myself in my therapist’s office asking, “Can you believe how insensitive he is?” Finally, she responds, “I don’t think he was being insensitive. I think he was caring for you. You, his beloved wife, stood 9 months pregnant with his first child on a train platform. You made him think of a time when you almost jumped in front of a train. He did the only thing he knew how to do to keep you safe: get you home earlier.” Perspective. Ouch. It was then and there l began to learn how deceiving our feelings can be and how different love can look. More importantly, I learned how blessed I am to have a God whose unending love and care empowers us to give each other the benefit of the doubt and accept human love in whatever form it is presented.
One song over many decades teaches me to live and then to love. I hear it again, different yet the same. I welcome it as the simple sweet reminder that God is in control. I feel a tug on my shirt. Is it my son pulling me out from behind the menu so he can show me his artwork? No, it is a tug on my heart, not on my sleeve. The tug is the song “Forever Young.” This time the song is by One Direction and it is unmistakably pointing me to only one place. The song informs me that to live and to love is not enough. I must also trust. Now is the time for me turn my life into only one direction, to totally entrust my life to the God who controls it.
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