Thursday, 4 August 2011

Song of grief: Afscheid nemen bestaat niet

Our most successful singer here in the Netherlands is called Marco Borsato. He's not a singer-songwriter as such, but his close collaboration with his personal songwriter is very successful. The pair have scored numerous hits.

A Borsato song is instantly recognisable, most of them are rather bombastic pop songs full of anguish, love or some other strong emotion. Borsato isn't the greatest singer around but boy can he emote!

If you're in love, and flying high, his songs will lift you even higher. If you're going through a particularly brutal breakup, he's there for you. Not surprisingly he can also be counted on to help you through a period of grief.

His most famous song of grief is called: Afscheid nemen bestaat niet, which translates to something like "no goodbye is forever".
The plot of the official video goes like this. We see a little girl in a playground, while her mother is at work nearby. The little girl is all alone, obviously feeling sad. She whispers the name of her father and Borsato (her father) appears and sings the song to her. He walks with her through the playground and the girl looks happy again. At the end of the song, the girl's mother appears again to to pick her up. We take one last look at the playground and see the image of Borsato fading. He was never there, existing only in the imagination of the little girl. It's actually rather sweet, check it out here.

The lyrics are here, in Dutch of course. But, as we all know Google (translation) is your friend. Well, more of an acquaintance in this case, because Google gets it wrong a few times. So here are the main points: no goodbye is forever, the dead are still connected to the loved ones they left behind and if needed they will come and help them through their grief.
The song is written from the viewpoint of a person who's about to die. The song is a promise to someone that he'll always be there if he or she needs him. Fluister mijn naam en ik kom er aan. "Just whisper my name, and I will come to you".

The sentiment of this song is a bit, well, trite, and the fact that absolutely everyone and their brother has heard this song played at a funeral doesn't exactly help. Still, there's one line in this song that's on my mind a lot these days. Zoek me in alles, dan kom je me tegen. "Look for me everywhere and you'll find me again".

It's a concept I'm struggling with. On the one hand I couldn't agree more. I do believe that love can build a bridge between the living and the dead. That a bond between two people can be so strong that death can only alter it, but not break it forever. And I want to believe that if you know what to look for you can encounter your loved ones in other people.

On the other hand it's a fine line between believing all that and silliness. I'm reminded of an episode of Friends where Phoebe was convinced that a stray cat harboured the soul of her dead mother. Sure, it was played for laughs, but what's the difference between flaky Phoebe's delusiosn and regular transference (me seeing my mum in other people).

I've seen glimpses of my mother in people I loved dearly. A good friend, a former boss, a life coach, my therapist, they all mirrored aspects of my mothers love. It's comforting but it also leaves you feeling very vulnerable in that kind of relationship. So it's a constant struggle.

But today it all became clear to me. I heard a voice telling me: "What's left of your mum isn't in other people, it's in you"!
So maybe, it's not so much a question of looking everywhere as looking deep inside yourself. My mum isn't gone forever, she's become a part of me.

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