Zoe Keating’s Concert

Image of concert lights similar to that at concert by Zoe Keating attended by DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley

Twitter can lead to some interesting friendships. But maybe the most unique one I have is with the cellist Zoe Keating. I mean, we’re not exactly friends – I’m more like her fan-girl – but sometimes we tweet articles and thoughts to each other.

So when she came to DC, I had to see her. I mean, I don’t know anything about cellos or really any stringed instrument, but I listened to her music and it was beautiful. Plus, I wanted to meet someone doing something with her art after a terrible loss.

You see, Zoe and I are Twitter friends because we both are part of the worst club on earth: we’re both young widows (and single moms of young kids.)

So it was more than her music that drew me to her concert. It was also that I wanted to see how someone like me was making it in the world. I wanted to see how someone could lose so much and still go on tour and get in front of live audiences and not sob through the whole thing.

Or maybe she would sob, who knows? Yes, her husband died a few years before mine, but as I’m learning, that pain doesn’t just leave because time passes.

So I rounded up a few friends and got myself down to the venue. We had great seats. Everyone there was buzzing about how much they loved Zoe and I felt like a bit of an imposter. No, I haven’t been listening to her for years.

But once she came onto the stage and began to play, I was shocked that I hadn’t previously discovered her music.

It was mesmerizing.

I’m not a music critic, so any way that I could try and describe what I heard would certainly fall flat. But early on in the show, there was this song that she played that made me feel like crying, in a good way. I’m paraphrasing here, but just before playing it, Zoe said something like, “you know when you try and run away from something and go to another place? But then you get to that other place and things are still hard?”

“YES, I definitely DO know that feeling,” I thought. I heard people murmur agreement around me.

“Well,” she said, still talking to the audience, “that’s what this song is about.” She went on to describe what it’s like to try and run away from something, and stumbled just a bit over her words. The audience was patient and listened closely.

She laughed at herself. “Maybe it’s better if I don’t tell you the meaning and instead I just play,” she said. Everyone chuckled. Then she played the song.

It was beautiful. As I listened, my heart reached to all of those things that I’ve tried to run from over the past year and a half. Shawn’s illness, his death, my life as a single mom, my failures as a wife and a mom and a teacher. The list could go on.

But the music wasn’t the kind of music that leaves you in a sad space, even if that’s where it begins. “This song is a bit experimental,” Zoe said a few times before playing one of her new pieces, “but we’re just going to try it out.” Each time, I was moved.

As a musician, I’m sure Zoe has always been more comfortable with experimentation. But part of me thought while she was playing, “oh, yes, I finally understand what it means to truly experiment. It’s what I do now in many parts of my life.”

Widowhood is strange like that. Maybe it’s because I realize life is short, or maybe it’s because I’ve survived the worst possible loss – but whatever it is, I feel more comfortable with experimentation now. I feel more aware of risks….and yet, also more likely to take them.

So maybe that’s why I enjoyed her concert so much. Watching her alone on stage, I thought, “there’s a widow I admire. She’s up there by herself, sharing her truths and also trying out something new. She’s experimenting, and doing it for everyone to see and maybe even critique. But she’s not afraid. Or maybe she is afraid, but she’s doing it anyway.”

She’s not hiding from the world, although maybe that would be easier. Instead, she’s up on stage, living and breathing and creating.

I don’t know anything about music. But I know about loss and what comes after. Right now, I’m learning what it means to experiment with a whole new life. Maybe Zoe is too, and maybe that’s why her music spoke to me so much.

As I left her concert that night, I turned to one of my friends. “That was amazing,” I said. “And you know what? It felt like therapy. Or maybe even better than therapy.”

I guess music can be like that.

8 Replies to “Zoe Keating’s Concert”

  1. Wow. So beautifully put. I hope these blogs are as healing for you as they must be for others.

    1. Writing is healing for me, that’s for sure.

  2. So true – your thoughts re experimentation define exactly how I feel at the moment. I often find it a difficult concept to articulate to others, your example does it very well.

    I hope someday your posts will find their way into a book or diary, they have helped me balance the competing thoughts of both living with crippling loss and embracing positive hope for the future. I am sure they would help many others.

    1. That’s really kind of you to say. I’m not sure yet what else the blog might hold but I appreciate your encouragement! And yes – experimentation….that’s exactly what life is like for many young widows and widowers I know.

  3. Live music: On May 7, I went (by myself) to see The Who in Grand Rapids and had a transcendent moment when they played “Love Reign O’er Me.” The emotion of longing, love, loss and redemption was a 10 minute tonic for my aching heart. My wife, Anne, died on June 12, 2017. We were together for 40 years. She was widowed twice (!), at age 27 (2 sons, a 3 year old and a 2 month old) and again at 31, before taking a chance with me, at age 33. I find comfort in your writing, and hope you’ll continue Thank you, Marjorie.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this with me. Yes, music has a way of really opening up our hearts and I think helping me (at least) connect with my grief. Zoe Keating is one of the best.

  4. Your blogs are amazing, I lost my hubby in Nov 2018 when I was pregnant with our second child. It has been so painful I still struggle to deal with anxiety but I am hopeful. God comfort you as you comfort us. You are an incredible strong rock, I don’t know you but I love you.

    Sending all my love from Johannesburg South Africa.

    1. Thank you so much for reaching out from so far away. I’m so sorry. It’s never easy – and especially with really young kids you have to care for. But I’m sending hugs from across the world. You’ll make it – I know you will.

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