It’s been said the difference between depression and grief is that the former seduces, while the latter attacks.
Whether it’s delivered by phone, direct conversation, email, or – ever more prevalent these days – via social media; the effects remain the same. Word blasts you in the solar plexus as a surprising sucker punch. A tsunami of shock flooding away whatever thoughts had been active the instant prior, blood rushes from your head, you stagger slightly, and then the awful reality of the moment clamps itself firmly on to your psyche, a rabid dog unwilling to let go.
Shake it as you might, the jaws of grief hold tightly; the only effective tools to pry loose its pincers are acceptance of this new horrific, hurting actuality; and patience, allowing time to apply — however slowly — its healing salve.
Looking back on the twisted road that to date has been my life’s journey, one of the main thoroughfares on which I’ve traveled has been my involvement in the media.
Starting as a college DJ at UCLA, I spent decades on the air and behind the scenes, eventually ending up as a media coordinator and consultant (among other jobs). There was an expression among “air personalities” back then: “You can tell the success of a disc jockey by the size of the trailer attached to his car.” Between the years of 1977 and the early eighties, I had no fewer than nine addresses. Tribes of nomads were we, wayfaring across this vast land, U-hauls in tow, pursuing larger audiences and higher wattage, mostly in pursuit of the Holy Grail of prime time on a clear-channel 50,000-watt blowtorch.
Some found it. Most took a detour — as did I, ending up on the Northcoast of California in 1983 to program an AM/FM combo. My original plan? Stay among the redwoods for a few years before moving to the bay area, intent on afternoon drive on KFRC. Should 35 be labeled as “a few years,” there’s still time. (Of course, KFRC has been gone since 2005 so there is that.)
Over the last 24 hours, I’ve heard distressing news about two of the tent posts of my life for these last three-plus decades.
One of my closest friends has been fighting cancer. Recently, he was told there was nothing left to do, “Go home and live your life as well as you can.” I fear that a future column will pay tribute to him.
Yet, today, I awoke to find out that Pete Meyer, morning personality on Power 96 in Eureka, passed away shockingly, suddenly, without foretoken.
It’s appropriate that as I write this, gray clouds suffocate our sky line, embracing the melancholy that this community now collectively bears.
If you don’t live among the towering titan trees and rocky coasts in Humboldt county, I’ll bet you know someone like Pete.
He was a joyful soul with a lightness of life that exuberantly infected everyone with whom he came in contact, whether over the air on his long-running morning show, or even more so, if you were fortunate enough to meet him in person. Encounters with “Meyer in the Morning” uplifted, you walked with a spring in your step when you left him, you couldn’t help but smile more broadly. In a word, you were “positive.”
When I moved to Humboldt, he was already a legend on the local airwaves and worked with me for several years. After I left the station, he of course remained. That’s what Pete did. And although we didn’t see each other regularly, we traveled similar roads and crossed paths numerous times. Each time there was a warmth and friendliness that was as genuine as if we still worked together; as much a part of him as the contagious smile, sunlit laugh, and long hair that could have been his trademark.
When someone passes, it’s natural to look for reasons. Were there missed cautionary signs? It’s our way of avoiding accepting our own mortality. After all, if we can find forewarning in this seemingly random tragedy, we might be able to avoid that fate ourselves.
Logical? No. Necessary to stay sane? Most likely.
We’re each walking a minefield.
As we age, the explosions become nearer, louder, more frequent. Learning how to handle loss in our later years is as necessary a skill as understanding how to remain active, eat well, and stay alert. Give up on any of those abilities and you might as well shut off the lights.
We can use these unfortunate lessons to hunker down, yank the blankets over our heads, and hide. Or, feel the grief and yet carry on, hugging closer those who matter, treating each other with compassion, kindness, and respect, accepting that right now, this minute, in the immediate the light still shines upon each of us.
Tomorrow morning things might change, but we’ll deal with that when it happens, even if the friendly voice on the radio that plays the hits has been silenced.
Rest in peace Pete. You made – and are still making – a difference.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds over 23 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentations. He also coaches individuals and consults with companies on how to implement and handle change. He can be reached at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com or 707.442.6243.