When Bad Things Happen to Good Jerrys

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 1995, Volume 2, #11

Written by Mike Indgin


When Jerry died, we all reacted the same way: "NOOOOOOOOO!"

It was beyond sorrow. But it wasn't beyond belief. We all knew this day would come. Unfortunately, it came too soon for our hurting hearts and hungry ears.

Why did we all know it would come? Because we all knew what Jerry was into. Enjoying life to the fullest and to the extreme. And it was these extremes that did him in.

When it's done and over, a man is just a man.

Jerry once said, "Anyone who thinks I'm God should talk to my kids." He wasn't God. He was only human. Granted, he was an exceptionally gifted, giving human, but a mere mortal all the same.

Trouble with being human is we have to abide by the laws of nature. It's one of the things that proves that there is a higher power the Other One.

This higher power can't change the laws of nature for anybody, no matter how kind they are. It can't turn off gravity to save a baby falling out of a forty story building because that same gravity is keeping the little old lady crossing the street from floating out into space. It can't deflect a bullet from entering a peaceful Beatle because the law says flesh and bone has to stay weaker than metal. It can't keep an enlarged, clogged heart from stopping, even though we all wish It had.

But who can the weather command?

Jerry was never one to follow the rules laid down by nature or any other authority. He took chances every day of his life. Every time he picked up his guitar, every time he stepped up to the microphone, he was pushing himself to the limit. Offstage, he lived the same way. "Leave me alone to find my own way home." So we did.

We left him alone while he picked up his cigarettes and his infamous briefcase full of goodies. Not that anyone could have stopped him anyway. Even his wife couldn't reign him in. But Jerry, of all people, should have known there's nothing you can hold for very long.

And now he's really gone, and we'll never see another Sugaree. We'll never hear another blistering Stranger. Or feel another Morning Dew. Only tapes and our fragile memories prove he was ever hear at all. Damn.

Comes a time, when a blind man takes your hand and says "Don't you see?"

So what do we do in the big empty space Jerry left behind? I see a lot of things.

I see lyrics that ring truer now than they ever have before. I see that I can be more kind. I can reach higher. I can play each card slower. And I use the pain I feel every time I wish he was still here to remind me to take better care of myself and the ones I love.

For me, that means no cigarettes, ever. No heavy shit, ever. Enough people have died on that crap to prove to us all that the real truth is that they are dead end roads.

I'm also trying to moderate my intake of things that give short-term satisfaction but don't pay off in the end. Things that seem harmless, but grow dangerous over time (like by the time we reach 53 years of age). Things like junk food, alcohol, hallucinogens, even kind bud.

Hurts my ears to listen. Burns my eyes to see.

I'm no authority. I'm not even a Wharf Rat. We can agree to disagree on any of these points. But do me one favor: listen to your self. Listen to your body and your mind, and see what rings true for you.

Jerry sang, "I'd rather be with you." I believe him, and I wish that with all my heart he was. Maybe he would still be here if he had listened to himself a little more.

Would Jerry have done anything differently if he had known that August 9th would be the end? I guess it doesn't matter anyway.

What does matter is you're still here. Are you going to do anything differently?


Copyright 1995 The Music Box