My Third Favorite Song of All-Time

I will probably die alone.  Like, in the typical sense that phrase conjures: no wife, no kids, no standard genetic legacy.  Sure, I have always had plenty of great friends and family, and hopefully still will when my final ticket gets punched, but I’ll still be shuffling off the mortal coil “alone”, for what it’s worth.

Remaining a single and childless (so far as I’m aware) man was a decision I made gradually over the last ten years, and, make no mistake about it, it has absolutely been a decision I consciously made.  Now, I really don’t understand myself well enough to know what about my inner workings makes me a happier, more satisfied man when I’m not beholden to a woman or needy children of my own, but there can be no mistake about it: I am not meant for relationships.  Not only am I better off this way, but any woman unfortunate enough to get swept up in my path is now much better off this way.  Please, forget about commenting something like “You still have lots of time!” or “You just need to meet the right woman!”  No, I don’t, and No, I won’t.  I’m not “normal”.  I might seem kinda normal because I don’t have facial tattoos and I have a pretty normal job and I don’t get arrested or paint mermaids on my car, but trust me, I aint normal.  But, one thing I am, is generally really happy.  So there’s that.

But all that being what it is, doesn’t mean this decision and reality doesn’t, on the rarest of occasion, make me sad.  I remember my younger days, and being in love, and part of a unit of two; that is a very special feeling.  I miss that elevated sensation of existence.  But more so than anything, I am saddened by this reality when I consider what life will be like once my parents are gone, and half of my friends and maybe even some of the women I loved when I was younger, when they are dead, too.  And then maybe I will get some terrible nameless disease, and I will be laying there in a hospital bed, in pain and afraid of the end, and nobody will be there to watch me die.  Can there be a much worse thought in all the world?

“What Sarah Said” by Death Cab For Cutie addresses this fear in such a pitch-perfect fashion, I am often emotionally afraid to listen to it.  Of course it is masterful, just as an artifact of such a talented band, but beyond that, it is an emotional juggernaut that should be preserved for whatever species populates our planet after us.

Lyricist Ben Gibbard spends almost all of the song describing a hospital waiting room, while interspersing the description with nuggets of intensely insightful wisdom:  “And it came to me then, that every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time.”

“And I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all.”

“It stung like a violent wind, that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our mind.”

And then, after building up such a heartfelt picture of someone waiting in a hospital for a loved one who is obviously in very bad health and probably close to dying, Gibbard’s narrator suddenly says that what he’s actually thinking about is “what Sarah said” (there is no mention of a Sarah before or after)…what Sarah said, apparently, is “Love is watching someone die.”

Let that sink in for a second.

And he closes the song with a repition of this refrain, that, due to my feelings I talked about up above, moves me beyond belief: “So, who’s going to watch you die?”

“What Sarah Said” by Death Cab For Cutie

And it came to me then
that every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time,
as I stared at my shoes
in the ICU that reeked of piss and 409.
And I rationed my breaths
as I said to myself
that I’d already taken too much today.
As each descending peak on the LCD
took you a little farther away from me.

Amongst the vending machines
and year-old magazines
in a place where we only say goodbye,
it stung like a violent wind
that our memories depend
on a faulty camera in our minds.
But I knew that you were a truth
I would rather lose
than to have never lain beside at all.
And I looked around
at all the eyes on the ground
as the TV entertained itself.

‘Cause there’s no comfort in the waiting room.
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news.
And then the nurse comes round
and everyone will lift their heads,
but I’m thinking of what Sarah said,
that “Love is watching someone die”.

So, who’s going to watch you die?

4 Responses to “My Third Favorite Song of All-Time”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    You know I don’t have much to say with this entry as far as the song goes. Sorry. I felt I must post something though after all the effort you put into the entry.

    I was struck by what you said about being afraid of the song for the emotion it might bring out in you. I too have songs that terrify me. I’m sure with you there are happy songs that have evoke the same fear though. I’ve got happy songs I’ve not heard in years because I don’t feel that I’ve earned them yet. They’re great songs too! A sad song at the right/wrong time will fucking rip your heart out for sure.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      What is an example of one such song for you?

      • Kyle Sundgren Says:

        Saying goodbye seems to be a great fear of mine lately. Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” scares the crap out of me!

        • sethdellinger Says:

          Oh man, that is a good one! I was 15 or 16 when they were huge, and I had this long, usually painful 3 year relationship with this girl Beth (!/beth.hooverstewart?fref=ts ) that was always off-again, on-again, super-dramatic type of stuff, and a lot of Boyz II Men was going on at that point. We definitely had sex to “I’ll Make Love To You”. Because we were teenagers.

          Anyway, “Goodbye” was painful for me a lot THEN, because things were always so damn serious with her. It doesn’t hurt now, but I can remember the hurt.

          It’s funny that so few people read my blog now, I have no qualms linking you to her FB page, even though I’m sure she wouldn’t love me talking about our old relationship that way. Even now, she’s still the longest relationship I’ve ever had. We’re Facebook friends. We never interact. Ever.

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