I wish you peace when times are hard
The light to guide you through the dark
And when storms are high and your dreams are low
I wish you the strength to let love grow on,
I wish you the strength to let love flow.
– I Wish You Peace*
When Glenn Frey of the Eagles passed away this year, I was heartbroken. It happened suddenly. There weren’t any tabloid rumors of failing health or canceled concerts, no onstage emergencies that graced entertainment reports. One day he was there and the next day he was the Breaking News headline on my CNN app.
I was not part of Frey’s family. I did not speak to him daily, nor did I make any of his business decisions or schedule any of his appearances. I would never claim that I knew him personally, but if his death taught me anything, it was that he knew me personally and his death would be mourned accordingly.
One of my earliest memories was watching the Eagles’ “Hotel California” video on VH1. I remember the neon light shining on Don Henley’s poofy hair, the double-necked guitar of Don Felder, and the ugly guitar face of Joe Walsh. I had no idea what the lyrics were referring to, but I enjoyed the song and remember watching the members of the band with rapt interest.
Not too long after, my mother purchased the Hell Freezes Over CD. I recall the gray and white cover and the blue The Wall sticker on the back of the plastic case. The CD was played on such a constant loop that I was able to memorize every lyric of the songs and the exact cadence of Frey when he said, “For the record, we never broke up, we just took a fourteen-year vacation.”
I never realized the music wasn’t of “my time.” That the Billy Joel and Phil Collins and Harry Chapin music I listened to day in and day out was incongruous with the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears posters that clung to the walls of my classmates’ bedrooms. It was what I preferred to hear on a Saturday morning or on long car rides with my parents and, therefore, needed no justification.
When my mom and I went grocery shopping, we sang all of the Eagles’ greatest hits, working on what little harmonies two altos (and I a shabby one, at that) could muster. We sang about peaceful, easy feelings, standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and being a victim of love.
When my parents split up several years later, my mom no longer sang with me in the car. I endured a lot of what my father did to my family, but the cruelest punishment was that joy had been taken from my mother and, thus, my mother had been taken from me. I wrote in my journal in loud, bubbly handwriting my plans to get my mom to sing again, thinking that this alone would indicate my mother’s return to wellness.
I would try Journey, I thought. She liked Steve Perry. Or maybe Genesis or Chicago…
But for years, the driver’s side remained silent.
I don’t know the exact date, but eventually my mother began singing. I remember where we were on the highway that runs by our house. And I remember that it was an Eagles album.
We giddily fell back into our old harmonies, the familiar tunes that spoke of better days. We sang for my high school boyfriend, drunk on each other’s happiness and health. My mom and I watched the Farewell I concert on DVD almost every week and laughed at Don Henley’s “guitar skills” and the fake bird sounds during “The Boys of Summer.” She purchased their entire discography for me and I fell in love with Desperado and, for some strange reason the “Doolin’-Dalton/Desperado (Reprise).” We pre-ordered the Long Road out of Eden CD and t-shirt combination pack and eventually, we sat on the floor of one of their concerts, hungrily feasting on each song as if it were our last meal.
Sooner or later we all have to die.
Sooner or later, that’s a stone-cold fact,
Four men ride out and only three ride back.
For me, Glenn Frey and the Eagles touched every part of my life, filling out my moments of celebration and loneliness like a movie soundtrack. Glenn Frey never knew me, but through his artistry, I began to know myself. His music was the backdrop to my life, and through trials and tribulations, I learned that I could survive. I could get stronger. I could persevere. I learned that despite life upheavals, we could find each other once more.
In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”
In my opinion, if we spent more time celebrating each other, we’d spend a whole lot less time trying to bring about each other’s end. Whether that life is your dearest family member, the soul of a pet, or the celebrity that sang into your heart, honoring them is a beautiful thing to do. It shows that the namaste you so readily say every Wednesday in Bikram Yoga means something. It ignites a sympathy, a love, for something greater than you.
To recognize the humanity in others and honor that in all the ways we know how, is the best gift we can give this world. It’s what will allow us to heal. It’s what will allow us to grow. It’s the only way we can be great again.
It’s your world now
Use well the time
Be part of something good
Leave something good behind
The curtain falls
I take my bow
That’s how it’s meant to be
It’s your world now
-It’s Your World Now*
*All lyrics are copyrighted to Eagles