I remember getting the call. Our mutual friend Curtis, with whom I hadn’t spoken to for a while, tracked me down by figuring out where I worked. He left a vague message on my answering machine at work. When I called his parents’ house, his mom told me what she knew. It sounded ridiculous, impossible. Terra was supposed to live forever. We were going to grow old together, two crazy old ladies flipping society the bird and doing whatever the hell we wanted. How could my partner in crime be gone?
I’d taken her for granted. I’d left Newfoundland for two years by then, always meant to go back, but then there was a whole other world to experience…and I figured Newfoundland would always be there…
I remember my last phone conversation with her, from my apartment in Williams Lake. I’d started writing songs, wrote a song about her on the little acoustic Yamaha. I tried playing a bit of it over the phone, which or course she couldn’t hear very well. It was a song about missing her, goddammit. I told her I probably wouldn’t get to come back for another couple of years, that’s the way it is when you only have 3 weeks of holidays a year. I wish I hadn’t said that. I wish I’d told her to come visit me. I mailed her a parcel shortly before she died, can’t remember what else was in it but the purple and blue paper mache crow, which she hung from the ceiling in the living room of her mom’s house.
Painful life lessons that I have never forgotten to this day: never allow yourself to get isolated when you get depressed; never allow a friend to do the same. Don’t apologize for being who you are. If you see bullshit, call it…with a smile. Laugh loudly at the ridiculousness of life. There is beauty and love everywhere, even though it may be harder to find in some places.
As present and sentient as she was, so much more than I was at her age (at 23 I still felt like society’s drone), she lacked wisdom, the perspective of time. I can’t help but wonder what she would have been like 10 years down the road. Of course, I imagine my version of Terra, which is not the complete picture. For all I know 10 years down the road she could have been in and out of the Waterford with multiple suicide attempts, drug addictions, and other sad afflictions. For better or worse, this is what those of us left have got to work with.
Terra, I miss you so much that it still hurts today as badly as it did 10 years ago. I miss laughing together, our road trips, our hikes, swims, singing, playing music, making food, everything. Do you have any idea the life lessons you taught me, even when you were alive? When you first disappeared I wondered what these lessons meant, if anything. In my own grief, I wondered if everything I shared with you had been null and void. But when I went back to St. John’s I began to understand. I think you just felt sad, and alone, and hopeless. I wish I’d been there to help you.
Okay, the song that’s really going to put me under the steamroller is coming up. Not because we listened to it together, but because I rediscovered it the following year, in a songbook that had an additional verse written in it by Pete Seeger. To read this verse of encouragement, written by my musical hero, in loving response to a song about childhood wonder transforming into delusionment written by Terra’s musical hero, it reflected everything I wish I could have communicated.
Terra, may your spirit live on forever. I love you, sister.