#DomesticViolenceAwareness, #MeToo, #ReadersFavoriteMiami2018, #TeamKimandJessica, Domestic Violence, EMDR, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Onsite, Sexual abuse, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Decade Review: 2010-2019

The beginning of a new year brings lots of thoughts about the past 365 days. As I started to think back over the last year, I realized not only did January 1st bring a new year, it also brought a new decade. I tried to think back to the start of 2010, and where I was in my life, and I couldn’t believe the changes that had taken place. So many so that it is hard to remember who I was. A stranger in a strange land.

2010 brought with it the continued grueling, agonizing grief that came from the loss of my grandmother. It would bring the year anniversary of the most painful loss of my lifetime. It would also bring the push I needed to seek counseling when the pain became too much to bare. unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at what followed, the counseling did not help. It was the reminder I did not want that I could not trust counselors, and the reason I had not stepped foot in an office since the court order had ended when I was in foster care. By the end of the year I knew if I wanted help, I would have to learn the skills to help myself. I met with admissions counselor at Springfield College to talk about the Masters in Mental Health Counseling program…and applied.

2011 began with an acceptance letter into the graduate program, soon followed by a full-time caseload of classes, because my motto has always been “Go big or go home.” Chaos was what I was used to, and this sure helped fill that requirement. Receiving As in my first few classes gave me the reminder that I was good at something. The year also brought hell to my son as the bullying continued. He started to get physically sick when we took the road that led to our house. No one wanted to help. The way out was found with the loss of our home; taken by a fire that destroyed everything we owned. Life had to start over; there was no other option. The insurance company gave the option of rebuilding in the same spot or finding a house somewhere else. The choice was an easy one, and we found a house down the road (less than a half a mile) from where some of the worst physical abuse of my life occurred.

2012 brought strength. As the kids’ lives started to settle down in school, I began to find myself. For the first time in my life I was able to see how I had been treated. The fog from the gas lighting started to lift. I took the new found strength and purchased tickets to see Tom Petty live in concert in Orlando, Florida. My first time to see him and my first time on an airplane. I didn’t know it then, but this would be one of the major stepping stones of my healing journey. If a lifelong dream could come true, anything could. I held on to that belief as the journey continued. The year also included a shakeup in my career. As my degree was getting closer and I learned more about ethics, I knew I did not want to stay somewhere I felt like I was settling. I left a job I held and had loved for six years to pursue something more; more money, more responsibility, more chaos.

2013 changed my life, maybe even saved it. As I learned who I was and what I didn’t need to deal with I knew what and who I didn’t want in my life. The year brought another Tom Petty concert, this time in Saratoga Springs, New York. It brought new friends, courage, and more strength than I knew I could handle. Three days before graduation my now ex-husband was arrested and removed from the home for physically assaulting me. The arrest gave me the protection I needed to get the divorce papers started, and set the motion for a safe life for my kids, pets, and myself. Safety did not come right away, but I knew I never had to allow him to put his hands on me or the kids again.

2014 was the year I got my name back! The divorce was finalized on May 30th. My first time at Fenway Park happened on August 31, 2014 to see my third Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert. This was the year I also started writing my memoir. I wrote 25,000 words and had to stop. I knew I couldn’t write my truth while my mom was alive. It had always been my job to protect everyone else’s feelings…this was no different.

2015 changed my status from lifetime Vermonter. A move I never thought I would make moved me across the river to New Hampshire. This was the year I started on my healing journey. A friend told me I needed to clean my third eye…I didn’t know what she meant, but I knew who to ask. I met with Sali Crow, which started the process of uncovering years of my buried trauma. Through this process it made sense to meet with a therapist. There was way too much to leave unattended. This was also the year my world went black, crashed around me, when my youngest daughter told me her father had been molesting her. Suddenly, I was that seven year old girl who was being molested again. While I protected my child, the hurt, anger and rage seared my skin as I thought about my seven year old self, and how my mom blamed me for the abuse…how she watched the abuse happen right in front of her. This nightmare sent me into a deep depression, and brought back every unresolved issue I ever faced in life. This was the year I found out what I was made of.

2016 put me in a position to learn Reiki, so I could continue on my healing journey, and help my children with theirs. It was the year I was able to see and acknowledge the abuse and trauma my mom caused me. I took a step back, and put some distance between us, so I could began healing old wounds. It was also the year I felt at peace with my gram’s death. On April 20th, ten days after the seventh anniversary of my gram’s death, my mom took her last breath. I was able to be by her side when she left this world. I was also able to tell her that I forgave her (and I meant it). The last words she spoke to me were, “I love you.” And for the first time in my life, I believed her. After my mom died, I sat at my computer and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I finished the first draft of my memoir by June, submitted it to an editor and waited. When it returned I read through the corrections, but I didn’t have it in me to go back to those places I needed to go. I was emotionally exhausted. My reward for completing a life long dream was an overnight trip to New York City to see Mudcrutch. I was the closet I had ever been to Tom Petty, and the night was magical. A small venue with acoustic music, that was a trip I am grateful for.

2017 brought the time I needed to rewrite my memoir. It also brought a trip to Nashville, TN to see Tom Petty with some online friends I had been talking with for years, who understood my love of the band. It also brought four more concerts. Two of them with front row seats, and a few guitar picks from the band (and Dana), one tossed right from Tom’s hand after he finished playing Free Fallin’. My memoir was published in September, and my book launch party was scheduled for October 20th, Tom’s birthday…October 2nd brought heartache when we learned Tom passed away. I was not sure how I would get through the event, but I pressed on, and honored the man who help save my life so many times with his words. The year finished out with a proposal from the only man who had ever shown me love and respect.

2018 was stated off in an airplane headed to Los Angeles, California to appear on the Dr. Phil show. I had been lead to believe we were going to be talking about my memoir, but soon learned that not to be true. My sister, step-father and I talked about the sexual abuse we experience as children. He admitted the abuse he had done to my sister, although in a twisted, victim blaming way, but denied what he had done to me. This experience brought many things with it. Clarity, healing and understanding. It also brought a trip to Tennessee where I spent a week at Onsite in their Healing Trauma workshop. This would not have been something I ever would have been able to do for myself, and it gave me the understanding of how many people there are who know what it’s like to live a life of trauma. I understood that I am not alone. And for the first time in my life, I understood my strength.

2019 introduced me to EMDR therapy, and helped me process many of the traumas that left me with PTSD. Luckily, I responded well to this type of therapy and it helped mend many years of hurt and self doubt. I had many break through in my sessions. It was the year I married a man who has loved me and never hurt me emotionally or physically. It also helped inspire me to help others share their stories and bring awareness to domestic violence. The year ended with the loss of our sweet dog, Belvedere, who taught me that the love was worth the pain.

After going through the years and events, it is easy for me to see I am not the person I used to be. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. The healing journey is one that does not end as life twists and turns. I look forward to the years ahead to see what adventures and lessons they have in store. Here is to the next ten years.

Love, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Dear Tom Petty

29790939_2116556518361810_3824043330497413120_nDear Tom Petty,

A year ago today, you took your last breath. My mind hasn’t been able to process the pain yet. I can’t bring myself to believe it. Thankfully, your music is here for us all, to help lessen the pain.

I don’t know why you were taken so young, when you still had so much to give…to your family, and your fans. The magic of your words saved so many people, and they will continue to save so many more. The right words at the right time, there is nothing one of your songs cannot cure.

Thank you for the hope your words bring me. Thank you for the love you shared. Thank you for always being a friend, especially during the times when I felt like there was no one else. Thank you for keeping me alive…for the song, and for the actual act of giving me a reason to continue on through some of the toughest days. Thank you for helping me believe that something good is coming. Thank you for giving me the strength to not back down. Thank you for everything.

With So Much Love,

Jessica

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Tom Petty has been my religion…for lack of a better word. When I felt like I was let down by God I found Tom. His music brings me peace, to spiritual places. When I hurt I listen to his music, when I am sad, or angry or happy I turn to his words.  I leave my gratitude for the man who saved my life so many times. With Tom I was never alone.

❤️I am grateful I found his music when I was 14.
❤️I am grateful his music was there when I felt like no one else was.
❤️I am grateful I was able to see him live in 2012, and for the healing that show alone gave me.
❤️I am grateful I was able to see him live in 2013 and in 2014 at Fenway park.
❤️I am grateful that I was able to see Mudcrutch in 2016.
❤️I am grateful I got to see him 5 times his final tour, twice in the front row.
❤️I am grateful for the moments of eye contact and the smile and the pick from the first Philly show.
❤️I am grateful for all of the friends I have made through TPN. Music brings people together.
❤️I am grateful Tom found true love after so much heartache and I am grateful I was able to see the love shared between him and Dana.
❤️I am grateful he has so many people who love him.
❤️I am grateful we have his music to lean on.❤️

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Depression, Grief and Loss, Hope, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Words

Ever since I can remember, I have loved words. Either in songs, poems, quotes, books…it didn’t matter to me. I just needed to be around words. One of my favorite books as a child was a book of quotations that I found on my gram’s bookshelf. I would spend hours reading through it, finding ones that meant something to me, and I would write them on little index cards and tape them up all over my room.

Words made sense in a world where nothing else did. 

This love of words is one of the main reasons that I love Tom Petty’s music so much. His words mean something. They reach the core of my soul, and wrap me in warmth. As the year anniversary of his death is fast approaching, I find myself drawn to looking for more words.

My words have been sparse. For reasons unknown to me. Depression maybe. Grief possibly. Whatever the reason, my words have been harder and harder to set free. This has made it next to impossible to write my weekly blog posts. I watch the days slip by, and the number of posts that I am behind continue to  grow.

I do things all or nothing. If I don’t think I can do a job up to my standards, I just don’t do it. Typically, I am able to force myself into it, and usually I produce results I am mildly  satisfied with. As this challenge taunted me, I found a way around it.

As I was drawn into searching for quotes, I decided to share them here. I will write what comes from the inspiration of the words, and hope to pass along some of the joy they bring.

To start, let’s begin with:

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”— Theodore Roosevelt

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Depression, Hope, Love, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

True Happiness

img_3133-1True happiness. That is what is in this picture. I started this blog on July 1st, the year anniversary of when this photo was taken, but could not find the words. Any of them. This was the night Tom Petty helped make a twenty year old wish come true. This was the night that everything was perfect. This was the night that the pain faded, and pure happiness took over.

This was the night I decided to live, and not wait. I went with my gut, and upgraded my tickets to front row. I had always talked myself out of them in the past, telling myself that I didn’t deserve them, or the money was better used for something else. That voice exited long enough to purchase them, and quickly returned as guilt came crashing in.

Because of my experience of life never going as planned, I could not get excited before the tickets were in my hand, and I was in my seat. It couldn’t be real. I didn’t want to work up the excitement, only to be let down. I was stressed out and anxious as I waited to receive the tickets as the rain poured out of the sky.

As they scanned the tickets, and we made our way to our seats, my anxiety changed to pure bliss. If only for a moment, I would have my chance to see Tom, and maybe, be seen by him. The magic from the night outweighed anything I could have wished for.

Still, a year later, I have a hard time believing it happened the way it did. Darkness turned to light in the moments on that night. I mattered in the sea of insignificance, if only for a second. Everything lined up, and my wish was granted. It could not have been more perfect.

There are very few moments in my life that play out this way. Or, very few that I allow myself to accept. When I went to write this a few weeks ago, I wanted more than anything to feel that happiness again. To find that smile and see the sparkle. The harder I looked, the more distant I became from that night.

For the moment, it was perfect. A dream. An everlasting memory. I didn’t want to taint it with the pain that this year brought. The pain of outliving most everyone I love. Sadly, Tom has been added to the list. But, for the moment, only a year ago, the lifetime of pain left my body.

I long for that feeling. A feeling I did not know I was lacking. The most important thing I had forgotten was to live. To live in the moment. To appreciate the little things, and the big ones. To let the love in. To let the love out. To be. To just be.

Searching for perfection will always lead to failure. To find happiness, the kind that is in my eyes from this night, I need to remember how simple it really is. Expect nothing, and be grateful for what is.

Tom always has a song to get me through. A perfect one for tonight, and every night after, Wildflowers, because I belong somewhere I feel free.

Thank you Tom, for the memories, the magic, and the words that reach my soul. ❤️

Grief and Loss, Hope, Love, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

37 Days Until 37 Years

img_7784My dad died 19 days before my eleventh birthday. He was thirty-seven. For the past twenty-six years I have worried about turning thirty-seven, as if it is the cursed year. That since he did not live, neither will I. I know how ludicrous this sounds, and have tried to push the thoughts out of my mind. But in 37 days, I will turn thirty-seven.

Turning thirty-seven always seemed so far away. And, now it is not. I have moments where anxiety takes my breath away when I think about how close it is. I had to stop and do the math. He was not just thirty-seven. He was thirty-seven years, seven months, and two days old. I wouldn’t let myself do the other math, to find out when I will be thirty-seven years, seven months, and two days old, because I don’t want to worry about another date on the calendar.

My dad did not reach his forties, and I always worried that I wouldn’t either. An unspoken fear, because if I don’t speak it, it won’t happen. I coast between not wanting to get older, and fearing that I won’t.

The universe doesn’t really work like that though. My life will not end, just because his did. The circumstances are different. I do not have Marfan Syndrome, and I did not have a heart attack in my twenties. I don’t eat a pound slice of macaroni and cheese loaf, straight from the deli, or crisp fat off a freshly baked ham.

My dad died before ever getting married. He was engaged, and excited to be a husband, but his fiancée brought a date to his funeral. (I always wondered how that would have played out.) He did not get to see me graduate eighth grade…or high school…or college…or grad school. He did not teach me how to drive, or help me buy my first car. He was not there for my wedding, or to help me through my divorce. He never got to meet his grandchildren or the man that I love.

He has missed a lot the last twenty-six years. And, I do not want to be like him.

I will live and watch my children grow. I will go to their graduations, and weddings. I will meet my grandchildren, and give unwanted advice.

I will be more than a memory. I hope. I hope, because we never really know.

Live. Live everyday like it will be your last. Live for yourself, and the ones that you love. Make memories, take pictures, and love. It is all we can do. We only get one chance…make it count.

healing, Hope, Tom Petty

Don’t Wait: Something Good is Coming

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released “Something Good Coming” in 2010 on their Mojo album. I did not stumble upon this song until 2012 as I prepared for my first live concert. This song caught me by surprise. It was song 14 of 16, and to be honest I didn’t really listen to the last two songs after I heard this one. It immediately spoke to me, and I had to believe, something good was coming…it had to be.

In 2012,  I was in grad school and was on the path to healing, except I didn’t know it then. Life was miserable, I was stuck in every aspect. Life was the same everyday, and hope was not something that I held onto.

“This is how it’s always going to be.”

“Nothing is ever going to change.”

“Why even bother?”

These kind of thoughts plagued my head. The negativity allowed for more to follow. Day after day I dreaded the next. I hated my life. I hated who I was. And then this song entered my world.

The words.

The melody.

The music.

All touched places inside me that had not been touched in so long. There was no way to escape the hope for better things while listening to this song. The more I listened, the more I believed. The more I believed, the more things started to change. Day by day, I was changing too.

When life got too hard, I would skip to song 14 on Mojo and let the song seep into my soul. Something Good Coming…

And there was. There was a better life waiting for my children and me. I began to see ways to change the things I hated. I saw things differently. Things could change, but the change had to start with me. I stopped letting life pass me by. I put actions into motion and everything began to fall into place.

It wasn’t easy. It was downright terrifying at times. When it became overwhelming I slid Mojo into the CD player and listened to track 14. A deep breath allowed the words to enter me in all the needed places and the strength to continue on came.

While in Orlando, FL at my first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert I was lucky enough to hear this song live. There is magic in hearing words live, feeling the beat of the music within your body, as your heart pounds in melody with the music. It was life changing, and the catalyst to the changes that came.

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~2012 Orlando, FL

Every year after this concert, when a tour was announced, I knew I had to go. Nine shows in total. Each brought their own special memories. The 40th Anniversary tour came with an urgency to go to as many shows as I could. I didn’t know why, I just knew I had to go. The first show I attended was in Nashville, TN on April 25, 2017. This was one of those spur of the moment decisions. Not a lot of thought or planning behind it, but I had to go.

When I returned home, I wrote a much needed letter to Tom. For the past 22 years, his music had saved me, and I needed him to know. I took a break from working on The Monster That Ate My Mommy, and wrote all the things I needed to tell him. I didn’t know if he would ever read it, but I felt like I needed to try.

After I wrote the letter, I knew I had to see him from the front row. We had tickets to both Philly shows and the first Boston show. I checked ticket sites to see which show had front row tickets available still. Front row tickets to the July 1st Philadelphia show were within reach…and I jumped on them.

July 1st came, and as we made our way to our seats my heart began to beat in my chest so loud. It had been three months since I mailed the letter and I held on to hope that he had received it. From the moment he entered the stage, my face lit up, and a smile stayed on my face. We made eye contact and as I sang along the smile never left. As he sang he kept looking my way, and the smile grew. At the end of song seven, “Free Fallin'” Tom stopped in front of me and finished the song. For those few seconds I know he knew how important he had been to me. If he hadn’t read my letter, the smile on my face told my story. The story so many of his fans can tell.

It is a moment I will never forget.

During the tour, I didn’t know why I had an urgency to go. I didn’t know what made me get on the plane and head to Nashville. I didn’t know why I had to see him from the front row. On October 2, 2017, I knew. The time to make these dreams come true was on a ticking clock, and came with an important reminder to live.

Don’t postpone things for tomorrow. Our time here is limited. Don’t wait. Live while you can. This is a lesson  Tom had been teaching me since I heard the first song.

There are lessons in everything. Look for them. Learn from them.

And remember…something good is coming…always.

 

 

April 28, 2017

Dear Tom,

I want to thank you, for many things. The summer I turned fourteen I fell in love with your music. Wildflowers had just come out, and when I heard You Don’t Know How it Feels on the radio I felt like you were talking to me. I requested the song on the radio every chance I got, and for my birthday that year I received the cassette tape. I grew up with music, but for the first time, music reached me in places I didn’t know existed.

My childhood was less than ideal, as I grew up in an abusive household with both parents struggling with mental illness and addictions. We found food in the local dumpster when we didn’t have money, and I struggle with PTSD now because of the abuse. At fourteen, life continued to throw challenges my way, and in my darkest hours it was your lyrics and your voice that brought me comfort and gave me hope. Your words were all I had at times.

A few years later, I got mixed up with an abusive older man, and after five years of being trapped and scared the first song I played after I finally found the courage to leave him was Free Fallin’. At this time I was only nineteen, and did not live near any music stores and only had access to Wildflowers and The Greatest Hits. I played them both over and over again, and as before, it was what kept me grounded.

Later, my mom started buying me more of your albums and some of your photos (one was even allegedly signed!) and concert t-shirts off EBay. I was closed off to most people, but the one thing they knew about me was that I connected to your music. I treasured the music and the items, because I never imagined I would get the chance to see you live. I wanted to, but I lived in Vermont, and was with another abusive man, who I had three children with. He was jealous of the love I held for your music.

My gram, who raised me, and was my best and only true friend passed away. I sank into a deep, dark depression, and again, the only thing that brought color to my world was your music. The song that I listened to during this time was Don’t Fade on Me. That song said the words I couldn’t find: “You were the one who took me in…you were the one thing I could count on. Above all you were my friend….” Even now, after eight years, listening to this song brings me great comfort.

A couple years later my family lost everything we owned in a house fire. We had been having troubles with a neighbor, who earlier in the day had threatened to burn our house down, but the fire investigators deemed it accidental. As I stood and watched all of the things my kids and I held dear burn I felt like I had lost everything. All of my music was gone. All of the items my mom had bought me, that made me feel closer to you were gone. All of my gram’s things that reminded me of her were gone. My kids lost all of their toys. We lost pictures…we lost everything. It was devastating until I realized no one was hurt. We were all safe, and what we lost were just things. The song that helped me through this time was Square One. At the time, I did not know that this event was my square one. It allowed me the freedom to put things in motion to leave my abusive husband, and it also gave me a little money to be able to see you live. In 2012 I was able to fly (for the first time!) to see you in Orlando. It was magical. I never imagined I would get the chance to see you and hear you in person.

Living that dream made me see that I could do anything if I wanted it bad enough. The other dream I had since I was a little girl was to be an author, to write my life story. I began to write, but after 65 pages, I got stuck. It was too much to be transported back to all the traumatic events that I had not really dealt with. For two years I put my writing on hold. My mom had hurt me in many ways, I just wanted her to love me, but it was not something that she was fully able to do. I did not feel right exposing our secrets to the world, so I told myself I would write after she passed away. I never imagined I would get the opportunity so quickly, but last April I was at my mom’s bed side as she passed away. Right before she lost consciousness, the last words I spoke to her were “I forgive you Mom. I love you.” She held on for two more days and I was able to tell her all of the things I had been holding on to. Finally, at the end of her life, she was able to give me the love that I had longed for my entire life.

Two weeks after my mom’s death I sat at my computer and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. As I wrote I listened to I Forgive it All on repeat and cried. I really did forgive it all. Two hundred more pages fell out of me, and I have been working on my edited version, because I want the suffering to be worth something, I want to be able to help someone else that may be in a similar situation, much like your music and words helped me.

The songs that I have mentioned are just a few of the ones that have touched me. I wanted to keep this brief enough to let you know that I owe you. If it were not for you and your music, I would have lost my battle with depression years ago. You were a friend when I had none. I have seen you in concert four more times since Orlando, and have three more shows to go to this year. When you come on stage, a smile takes over my face and tears well up in my eyes, because I am grateful for all that you do for your fans and I wanted you to know that you matter. Your lyrics, your songs, your voice matter. I know I am not the only one who feels this way, but I wanted you to know.

If possible, I would be honored to use this as the epigram for my book, The Monster that Ate my Mommy: …there’s somethin’ good comin’ for you and me, sometin’ good comin’ there has to be… Because of you, I believe this to be true.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Sincerely Grateful,

Jessica Aiken-Hall

 

Grief and Loss, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Four Months on This Groundhog Day

22195256_10159447341855711_7932537416085145978_nToday took me by surprise. For the past nine years I count down the days until February 2. Not because I am awaiting an adorable rodent’s prediction of the length of winter…because living in New England, we all know the weather does what it wants and in February we are almost guaranteed twelve more weeks of dreadful, dreary winter.

The evening of February 2, 2009 my world began to crumble as I received the call that my uncle had passed away, and I was the one to share the news with his mother, my gram.

I didn’t know what to say or how to phrase it, so I sat in front of my eighty-nine-year old grandmother, blinded by tears and blurted out the information. Her son lived over seven hundred miles from her for the past four decades. He visited every few years, and they talked on the phone almost as sporadically. He was her oldest (and favorite) child, and she loved him with all she had. I knew the news was going to kill her, but had no idea how quickly.

Soon after his death she began talking about hers. I shushed her as much as possible. “Gram, stop it…you are not going to die.”

“Jessie…I’m eighty-nine…I’m ready…”

I covered my ears and started to build the wall higher around my heart in preparation for what was coming. She tried to preplan her funeral, but I was not ready to help her. She wanted me to take notes to write her obituary, but I wouldn’t listen.

Denial is a beautiful thing, but only lasts so long. Regret however, can last a lifetime. Two months later my gram died of a heart attack. A broken heart. My world went black as she slipped away. Nothing made sense any more. I didn’t know who I was. Parts of me died that day too.

Without diverting too far from the point, February 2 always takes me back to that phone call, and the days that followed. Every year there are reminders of the day on the news, on social media, the radio…everywhere. My family members have a habit of dying on “holidays” -Flag Day, Groundhog Day, Thanksgiving, and Good Friday- so reminders of death-iversaries are everywhere.

As I connected the dots this morning, I could feel myself going down the familiar, well-worn path of grieving, I turned on Tom Petty to help ease the pain. And, like that, it worked. His words filled all of the empty spaces in my heart. As his voice hit my ears…tears began to well.

Today marks the fourth month since Tom’s passing.

While I am sad, I am also grateful.

I am sad that his life was cut short. I am sad that the world will think he’s “just another rock and roll star with a drug problem.” I am sad that he gave his fans his all, and because he worked so hard, and tirelessly, he was in an extreme amount of pain. I am sad that we will never be able to have new words written by his talented soul. I am sad that his family, band members, and friends lost him so young. I am sad that we all lost him so soon. I am sad that a simple mistake cost him his life. I am sad (and maybe a little angry) that opioids stole another life.

But I am grateful.

I am grateful of the gifts he left the world. I am grateful that his music heals so much for me. I am grateful that just the sound of his voice sooths my soul. I am grateful that he left behind so much talent. I am grateful that future generations will have his music. I am grateful that I was able to breathe in the same air as him at nine different concerts. I am even more grateful that I was able to catch his pick this last tour (two days before my birthday). I am grateful that Tom Petty saved my life, and gave me a sense that I belonged in this world.

His words are powerful, and reach people where they are at. In the darkness he brings light. In the light, he increases your joy. Pure. Gentle. Subtle.

Tom Petty’s music is the soundtrack to my life. I am not alone on that one. I have met countless others who feel the same way. From twelve to ninety, his music touched his fans. The lyrics snuck in through our ears and tangled around our hearts. No other music has ever done that to me, and I am doubtful it ever will.

My love for a man I never met keeps me going. It gives me hope and strength on the toughest days. It connects me with others, who love him too. We are in this together. As a fan, you are never alone. A family of strangers, who love a man and his music who has touched so many of us.

Thank you Tom for giving us all you had, and a little more. Thank you to his family and friends who shared pieces of this incredible, gentle, kind man with us.

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