Pink Floyd – An Introspective
‘Mother did it need to be so high?’ The last line in a Pink Floyd song titled simply Mother. And build the wall high she did. ‘Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you’. Fear was the mortar that held the wall together, fear that her son would suffer as she had growing up in a home with broken parents. The heart-rending thing was it took her many years to realise she too was broken, and so the wounding continued. Love was the motivator, but irreparable damage the result. No matter how hard she tried she could not protect him from suffering. What she could, and did eventually do, was work on her own brokenness.
The 12th anniversary of his death was approaching and the words of the song kept playing on the turntable of her being. ‘-mother should I build a wall? — Hush now baby baby don’t you cry, mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true, mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you, mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing, she won’t let you fly but she might let you sing, mama’s gonna keep baby cosy and warm, of course Mama’s gonna help build the wall. —You’ll always be a baby to me. Mother did it need to be so high?’
Her obsession with this song at this time of the year was not self flagellation, nor misplaced guilt; it was an honest acknowledgement of what was and what is. Like many mothers before and since, she was loving, caring, compassionate and imperfect. She no longer believed she was responsible for his death. He was an irrepressible mix of joy and sorrow, but within him these emotions were more than just the yin and yang of life, they were mortal enemies. For years he battled a compulsive need to end his life; he succeeded on his fourth attempt.
Wish You Were Here was the song she and her husband played as they drove into Wilson’s Prom each year on the anniversary of KB’s death. It was a necessary ritual to visit Squeaky Beach where his ashes were scattered on this day of sorrow, remembering and celebration of a life cut short. ‘How I wish you were here, we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year, running over the same old ground, what have we found, the same old fears, I wish that you were here.’
It wasn’t just since his death that the lyrics of this song had spoken to her deepest self. For almost ten years before he died depression and drugs had often made him an absent presence, his body seeming to be inhabited by a stranger, a stranger who denied her access to the warm, caring young man she knew and adored. She would caress his cheek, look deep into his eyes, and see nothing but her own reflection in the dark, empty pools where laughter once lived. ‘So, so you think you can tell, heaven from hell, blue skies from pain —and did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts, hot ashes for trees and hot air for a cool breeze, cold comfort for change, and did you exchange a walk-on part in a war, for a lead role in a cage — how I wish you were here.’
They always left Squeaky Beach just as the sun was setting. The Floyd song for this part of the journey was always Shine On You Crazy Diamond because KB, like sunset at The Prom, was a spectacular, multifaceted gem. For her this song also, applied to both his death and the living death of depression and addiction. The words illustrate the price many pay for wanting to grow up too soon, for using a substance as a means of escape from painful reality, for believing they are invincible. ‘Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun, shine on you crazy diamond, now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky, — you reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon, shine on you crazy diamond, threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light, shine on you crazy diamond.’
The closer the anniversary came, the more she dwelt on her inability to believe in a life after death. She wanted to, oh how she wanted to, she would close her eyes and picture him in life, longing to feel the touch of his hand on her shoulder, the warm, loving hugs he always gave, wishing fervently that one day she could feel that warmth again. Whatever came after death, if anything, it could never be what once was, nothing could bring back the last 12 years, rerun them like the remake of an old movie, only this time with an upbeat ending; his young life continuing happily, with a partner, a home of his own, and children, her grandchildren, all the things he wanted but never had. Still she listened longingly to the following words of his favourite Pink Floyd song, the one he related to so strongly he wrote in an earlier suicide note that it was how he wanted to be remembered – as a Crazy Diamond – ‘Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far, shine on you crazy diamond, pile on many more years and I’ll be joining you there, — come on you boy child, you winner and loser, come on you miner for truth and delusion and shine.’
This coming anniversary would be the third year in a row that she would be unable to make the journey to Squeaky Beach. Her husband had died suddenly, just before the 10th anniversary of KB’s death, and she had a chronic illness that left her unable to make it from the car park to the beach on her own.
As she mused on their first trek from the car-park to the beach, the day they scattered his ashes, she was reminded of the grief process. You arrive at an unfamiliar destination, surrounded by people who have no idea of the journey you are embarking on. The pathway leading to the beach mirrors the grief journey. You start on rocky, uneven ground, then move onto a boardwalk that takes you over murky water, you hear the croak of a frog, see ripples created by things unknown, want to look more closely, but fear what may be hiding in the shadows. The boardwalk ends and you’re back onto the uneven pathway that has been carved through the bush. At first the sky is visible, but just before you reach the beach you pass through a dark passage covered by dense bushland where the trees link branches overhead blocking out the light. Once you have made it through the darkness you get your first glimpse of sand and sea, but you are not there yet, you find the sea has flowed into deep channels in the sand, you must struggle to cross these before you reach the beach.
There were others who would take her on this emotional journey but – it was such a private, personal ritual, a sharing of things only they knew and understood, like the way they would open the roof of the car, even in the pouring rain, and she would stand with her head sticking out singing along with The Floyd at the top of her voice while her husband drove out of The Prom smiling, and loving her ferocious free spirit. It wouldn’t be the same with someone else. Of course that’s the reality of death, nothing is ever the same again.
They were both gone, both died far too young, her son 26, her husband 63. ‘Breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care, leave but don’t leave me, look around, choose your own ground, for long you live and high you fly, smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry, all you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be — for long you live and high you fly, but only if you ride the tide, balanced on the biggest wave, you race towards an early grave.’ They had both ‘balanced on the biggest wave,’ in their time, and although death had claimed their bodies, they lived on in her memory and in the music they had all loved. Their legacy was she no longer feared death, whatever death was they had been through it. If they could do it, so could she. She began her story with the words of Pink Floyd; she felt it only fitting to end it the same way.
The Great Gig in the Sky ‘And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don’t mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There’s no reason for it, you’ve gotta go sometime. If you can hear this whispering you are dying. I never said I was frightened of dying.’