The Happiest Sad We Could Be
Updated: Jul 8, 2022
If you have been following my Facebook page for the last few weeks, you've read about George Maddox, his plane crash and his ultimately passing away from injuries sustained. You've read about his wife Lisa, my longtime/rest-of-life friend and their sweet 7 year old daughter Lily. I won't recap here so if you're new to my friend list or want to revisit the story, just go to my page and scroll back.
What I want to write about here is the idea of doing something, anything, in the face of feeling totally helpless. One foot in front of the other.
GET ON YOUR BOOTS
"Here's where we gotta be / Love and community / Laughter is eternity / If joy is real"
Let me introduce you to the cast of characters. Lisa and Lily, of course; Sara, Lisa's stepdaughter who has been taking care of Lily; Lorna, Lisa's friend since college who has been taking care of Lisa. And me... waiting to see what I can do for people I love who are hurting so badly. Add to the mix former colleagues of George from The Producers days: Dave "Dopp" Colvin, Donnie Graves and Kyle Henderson, all of whom have recently come back into the picture through facebook. Now that you know WHO, let me tell you WHAT.
Dopp is currently a driver for tour coaches and was taking his bus from Atlanta to Chicago to meet up with the biggest rock tour ever: U2. It was the start of their North American tour so the bus was empty. Dopp asked me if I wanted to ride along and go to the show. Because I was saving my days off to be with Lisa, I said "thanks, but no... unless you want to bring Lisa, Lily, Lorna and Sara too." - an off the cuff remark, meant to be a joke. He said, "Let me see what I can do."
IF GOD WILL SEND HIS ANGELS
"If God will send his angels / And if God will send a sign / Well if God will send his angels / Where do we go?"
Dopp would provide transportation, no problem. He then reached out to Donnie who took care of getting tickets for us - all five of us, no small feat. Donnie and his wife Donna own a marketing company which is doing the marketing for Blackberry, sponsor of the U2 tour. Donnie went to the top with the story of George and Lisa and Lily and doors opened, opportunities arose and good vibes flowed. We were all set to attend the opening night of the North American leg of the biggest rock tour ever: U2 in Chicago.
A SORT OF HOMECOMING
"And you know it's time to go / Through the sleet and driving snow / Across the fields of mourning to a light that's in the distance."
Lisa, Lily, Lorna and Sara flew into Nashville on Thursday afternoon. I met them at the airport and Dopp picked us up with the bus. We had no sleet or driving snow but through the rest of the afternoon, we had mountains, rows of corn and windmills. We did have fields of mourning and the laughs were mixed with tears while we talked about George and talked about what Lisa has to face. We took turns visiting with Dopp in the front passenger seat and we rolled into Indianapolis for the night. Our brave driver was not brave enough for our all-girl slumber party so after we had a gumbo dinner, he took a room while we slept on the bus. Lily tried a top bunk and a middle bunk before finally deciding on the lower one.
We climbed into our beds much later than we should have given our early morning call for Friday. Some of us slept the sleep of the just and some of us tossed and turned. Lily woke up calling “Mom… mom,” confused about where she was but I took her to the back lounge area and got her settled back to sleep. Of course, then I was awake. After showers and breakfast, we thought we were getting back on the road but Dopp told us we had one stop to make. Wal-Mart.
SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS
”Some days it all adds up / And what you've got is enough. / Some days are better than others.”
We were given a list and sent into the store to stock up on supplies for the bus while Dopp took care of some mechanical details. We also took a few moments to stock up on more Bratz dolls, a pair of shoes, and two U2 cds so we could rock out on our way into Chicago. Unfortunately, Sara wasn’t feeling well but she rallied – what a trooper. Back on the bus and heading North, we spent time updating facebook, talking about the upcoming memorial for George and in a lengthy session of Bratz family court. (Lily is working out some of her confusion through role play.)
Then it seems like, all of a sudden, there’s the Sears Tower, there’s Wrigley Field, (where’s Oprah, is that Oprah, I think that’s Oprah) and we are at our hotel. Due to the last minute nature of the trip, we got what may have been the last hotel room in downtown Chicago. Four full grown ladies and a little girl in one room. Somehow it worked out okay.
SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T MAKE IT ON YOUR OWN
“Listen to me now / I need to let you know / You don't have to go it alone”
This trip was about people who knew and loved George doing something nice for his family. But it was also about people who know and love Lisa holding her up. That included Atlanta friends now living in Chicago taking us all to a lovely meal at the Park Grill. Steve Dixon, Ruth Leitman and their beautiful daughter Ella treated us to an evening of looking back and looking forward. Lily and Ella became fast friends and we lingered at the table for a long time, not wanting the night to end. We made plans to meet Ruth and Ella the following day for a play date.
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY
“It's a beautiful day / Don't let it get away”
Saturday was a beautiful day and we had a full one ahead of us. Plans were made, plans changed, but still, everything worked out. Lisa and Ruth took Lily and Ella to the American Girl doll store. Lorna, Sara and I were in a cab right behind them but somehow we ended up a block away. Coincidentally, we were dropped off in front of the Park Hyatt, where U2 was staying. No, really… a coincidence. We noticed there was a crowed gathered and asked what was going on. “U2 is coming out,” someone said. We decided to stand and watch too – turns out, watching for a door to open was the better alternative to the doll store for the three of us! We never saw the band but it gave us a chance to talk, just the three of us, some serious, some pure silliness. I believe it was at this point that Sara referred to the guitarist for U2 as The Flash.
We had been trying to coordinate a meet-up with Kyle Henderson who now lives in Madison WI. He offered to drive down, just to be able to give Lisa a hug, a card from The Producers and to meet Lily. Because plans were a bit fluid, we weren’t sure it would work out but we finally sorted out an early dinner, an extremely delicious chicken panang. He drove a long way for a short visit and it was good to see him.
But soon, it was time to go to the show.
“One life with each other: sisters, brothers. One life, but we're not the same. / We get to carry each other, carry each other”
“One” may not seem like the most fitting subtitle for a section that could be called “Many.” It felt like a lot of people linked their arms together and carried us to the experience of a lifetime. We were picked up at the hotel and driven, with Dopp, to Soldier Field, the huge stadium. The beauty of Chicago was visible in the fading light and we were impressed. On we drove, past the people walking to the show, past the $45 parking, on and on until we drove right into the entrance that goes under the stadium. We put on the VIP wristbands that Donnie had arranged for us and were taken to the Blackberry Hospitality Suite. Donnie was not there due to business elsewhere but we met his wife and partner Donna. The suite was decorated beautifully; there was food, drinks, people attending to our every need.
Dopp pulled me aside to show me where our tickets would take us. Out to the concourse, wow, what a view. Oh? Not here? Where? He pointed to the stage. “See that inner circle? There.” WOW. If you go to www.u2.com you will see photos of the stage in Chicago. Only then will you realize the magnitude of all this, the biggest rock tour ever. I went back to the suite, gathered the party and Dopp escorted us down to the field. We determined then that Lily might get crushed in the inner circle so we found a great vantage point just beyond the outer circle. And then…
“Unos dos tres catorce!”
U2 rocked. Mmm, that somehow doesn’t cover it. The stage, the lights, the band, the songs… beyond what can easily be described. So I won’t try. What I will tell you is what we did and saw and felt. Early into the set, Lisa and I went into the inner circle while Lily stayed with Lorna and Sara. We were very close and when Bono came over to our side of the stage, it was electrifying. After a few songs we decided we’d better get back. We danced and sang along, Lily pumped her fist in the air and clapped and sang the words she knew. There were some very moving filmed portions of the show.
One of the causes U2 supports is Free Burma. From their website: “Aung San Suu Kyi, pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, symbolizes the struggle of Burma's people to be free. Her Party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 82% of the seats in the 1990 election… [The Burmese military overturned that election and arrested her.] She spent many years under house arrest and was prevented from seeing her family. She was released from house arrest in May 2002. Hundreds of her supporters are still detained, many suffering torture and in some cases death. Her message is a simple one - that only by fighting fear can you truly be free.” The band dedicated the song Walk On to her and members of the audience, wearing masks of Aung San Suu Kyi’s image flanked the stage. Lily was very touched by this and told Lisa, “we need to help the peace lady.” During the song, I looked over and Lily was waving her arm in the air with her hand making a peace sign. She said Mono told us we’d better help. Yes, she was pretty impressed with Mono.
I’LL GO CRAZY IF I DON’T GO CRAZY TONIGHT
“It's not a hill, it's a mountain / As you start out the climb / Listen for me, I'll be shouting / We’re gonna make it all the way to the light / But you know I'll go crazy if I don’t go crazy tonight”
It was pretty clear that we were all blowing off some steam. Sara was dancing her buns off with a big smile on her face. Towards the end of the show, I took Lorna into the inner circle where we remained through the encores. She had a dazed look on her face. She may have levitated at one point. I think she liked it there! Even after more than two hours, the show was over too soon. We rejoined the others and waited for Dopp to come and get us.
During the show, Lisa would lean over and say how much George would love it, how badly she wished he could be there. She asked the rhetorical questions of what am I going to do, how am I going to parent Lily alone, where are we going to go… sadly, the very thing that was supposed to give her a break from worries, the biggest rock show ever, was not enough to turn her mind off. The songs rubbed at a heart that was already raw from heartbreak. Still, I hope she came away feeling just a little better for a tiny moment.
We were taken to the bus to wait for the van that would give us a ride back to the hotel. We got to our room still so keyed up that it was almost 2AM before we settled in for a few hours sleep. Up at 8 AM, airport shuttle at 10:15. Suddenly, we’re saying goodbye. How did it go so quickly? Trying not to cry, crying anyway. Goodbye, goodbye, talk to you soon, see you later.
Back home… exhausted. Did all that really happen? A million thanks to all those mentioned above and all those behind the scenes who helped make it happen. And if Mono and The Flash can dedicate this song to a woman whose strength they admire, so can I. This one is for you, Lisa:
And love is not the easy thing
The only baggage you can bring...
And love is not the easy thing....
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind
And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong
Walk on, walk on
What you got they can't steal it
No they can't even feel it
Walk on, walk on...
Stay safe tonight
You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen
You could have flown away
A singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom
Walk on, walk on
What you've got they can't deny it
Can't sell it, can't buy it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight
And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on
Home, hard to know what it is if you've never had one
Home, I can't say where it is but I know I'm going home
That's where the hurt is
I know it aches
How your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on
Leave it behind
You've got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress up
All that you scheme.
Set list for Soldier Field, Chicago, September 12, 2009:
No Line On The Horizon
Get On Your Boots
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Stuck In A Moment (You Can't Get Out Of)
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (Remix)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Pride (In The Name of Love)
Where The Streets Have No Name
With Or Without You
Moment of Surrender