Some songs are just nice to listen to; some others, though, carry a strong message that goes straight to your heart. “You’re Not There”, by Lukas Graham, is an infinitely sad song whose lyrics tell a story of pain and loss.
From the first time I heard it, it sounded like a heartfelt message from a son to a mother or father (or both) who died prematurely. Years later, the child talks to his missing parent, saying he or she will never see the person he has become, and he sings it with such emotion that you cannot help but be moved.
As a mother of young children, I worried that I might not be there to watch them grow, more – to help them grow. That I might have an accident or illness and disappear before they had the chance to become adults; that they would have to face life as motherless children, as much as I knew they had a wonderful father who would do everything for them. But each parent is unique, and the loss of any of them is a tragedy in the life of a child.
I felt that more acutely twice in my life. Once, when I was terribly ill because of an appendicitis no one seemed able to diagnose. The first days I spent in hospital were among the scariest of my life, as doctors looked at me and I saw in their eyes they had no idea how to solve my problem or what its origin was. Lucky me, a few days after they gave me an antibiotic and the fever subsided. But all the time I was there I thought about my sons, eight and four at the time, and prayed I could be spared to see, and help them grow into independent adult beings. I knew they were too young to be without me. God heard my prayers and I miraculously improved – only to be operated on a few months after, a simple procedure as there was no more infection. I was so grateful to be back home with them, healthy and ready to face all the challenges of motherhood for the rest of my life.
And then, only a couple of years later, came a day when I was closer to death than ever before, when I was almost run over by a bus. I was saved by a warning voice who told me, in those fractions of a second that can change lives, to look left. As I did, I saw this bus coming towards me at high speed and the horrified face of its driver who thought he was going to kill me. I threw myself – literally – backwards and saw the bus only a few centimetres from my face, but I was saved, and I knew, for certain, that voice was my father’s. Wherever he was, in another dimension, he had warned me because he didn’t want his beloved grandchildren to grow up without their mother. That voice gave me a new chance at life and stopped my boys from becoming orphans, allowing them to grow up happy and safe, with the love and support of their mother and father, as should be the right of every child on this Earth.
But I never forgot those occasions, and how grateful I am for what did not happen on those fateful days. Unlike the boy’s missing parent in the song, I have lived to see the men my sons have become; I continued to show them the way, and they didn’t have to say goodbye, or make it on their own. I’ve been there to share in their successes and mistakes. I am so lucky to be able to celebrate the men that I’ve made.
As I watch the videoclip and once again listen to the heartrending words, I think, maybe I’m getting it all wrong, maybe the story is one of a lost love, not of a lost parent, but then it really doesn’t matter, as the song may speak differently to each person. As for me, I cannot help it – as soon as I hear it, I go back to those terrible occasions when I thought I would not be there for my sons, when I thought I would fail them as a mother even if it was not my fault if I was no longer with them. And then I think how privileged I am, how privileged they are, because they had such a blessed childhood and teens, surrounded by the love and unquestioning support of their parents. Now they are grown men, spreading their wings and fly, and they need me less and less but whenever they do, they will still reach out for my hand and find it. Because I’m still there.