How Going To A Dead & Business Show With A Complete Stranger Assisted Me Heal After Losing My Kid

How Going To A Dead & Business Show With A Complete Stranger Assisted Me Heal After Losing My Kid

I froze when I saw the subject line ” Jason.” I rapidly opened the email and discovered the following message:

Hi, Mrs. Nelson,

I never fulfilled you, but I was friends with Jason in college and we used to hang out a lot, particularly the year he died.

We were going to be roommates senior year …

I hope you are succeeding after all these years …

And I hope my note doesn’t bring back unneeded discomfort.

I simply desired you to understand that he is not forgotten.

All the very best, Matt

I wanted to strike the “delete” button– the e-mail brought me back in time to the voicemail Jason’s father left me at midnight 29 years earlier.

It was the day after Christmas and my spouse Jim and I had actually gotten back late from a celebration. I saw the light blinking on the answering machine and pushed play.

” Judy, call me. There’s been … ”

It was Jason’s daddy. His voice didn’t have its normal severe and demanding tone– instead it was sluggish and halting.

Prior to he had actually completed the sentence, I deleted the message. I knew.

Jason had actually been on a scuba diving trip in Cozumel, Mexico, with his stepbrother. I was so worried about a scuba mishap it didn’t strike me they would rent mopeds and go bar-hopping. Or that they would ride house without using helmets on a dark highway with giant speed bumps. Or that Jason, probably speeding and tipsy, would hit one of those bumps at high speed, crash headfirst into a tree, and pass away instantly– 2 months before turning 21.

Losing my only kid ripped a long-term gash in my heart. I conserved my peace of mind and assuaged my misery by composing him letters every day for months but I had nowhere to send them.


Many individuals appear to believe grievers ought to be done grieving after a year.

When a long time friend of mine lost her boy in an airplane crash 10 years after Jason died, she held a yearly celebration of his life.

Jason and Judy hiking in the California Redwoods, ca. 1986.


I printed Matt’s e-mail and brought it to Jim to check out. His eyes watered, and he held me in a quiet welcome.

I wrote back to Matt:

Dear Matthew,

You can’t understand how much it implies to me to hear from you and learn that you believe of Jason so lots of years later.

Soon we were interacting every few weeks.

I discovered he was a teacher of biology– a subject Jason had liked. In reality, they met when they both signed up for biology class.

” Today we will do an experiment in muscle conductivity. It will harm a little, however just like a pinprick,” Matt informed me the professor had stated. “Any volunteers?”

” I’ll do it,” Jason quickly responded, his hand waving in the air.


When Matt suggested we attend a performance of the Grateful Dead spinoff group Dead & Company together in a 20,000- seat amphitheater near San Francisco, I laughed. I ‘d currently informed him about the time Jason wanted to participate in a Dead show when he was 12.

” Mommy, Mom, Guess what? My buddies have an additional ticket for a Grateful Dead program tomorrow night and they have actually invited me! Can I go, Mommy? Please,” he ‘d begged.

” You understand how I feel about that band,” I informed him.

Jason finally stomped off, whispering. He remained mad till I finally coaxed a giggle out of him with a bad joke and a cookie.

Knowing how that interaction had actually gone, Matt tossed me a challenge.

” How about I take you to a Grateful Dead show to reveal you how wrong you are!” he recommended.

I hate crowds and loud rock music, but Matt was using me a present: a chance to understand why Jason enjoyed The Grateful Dead so much and– an opportunity to understand more about Jason all these years after he was drawn from me.


— and I power forward.

Matt is on the cusp of 50, the very same age Jason would have been today. I am 75 years of ages. I had actually not planned on the curves the universe has actually tossed my method. Some, like pains and pains from arthritis, were anticipated. I never anticipated the shortness of breath and low energy triggered by an unanticipated cardiac condition.

Matt keeps climbing along the edges where individuals have set up blankets and folding chairs on the lawn of the big meadow.

Matt reduces himself into his seat. I have a hard time to relieve myself into mine.

Jason and his spirit animals at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, ca. 1985.


In the months before the concert, my buddies offered great deals of suggestions to assist me take full advantage of the experience. “Get a fake tattoo,” one recommended. “Put some stripes of color in your hair,” another stated, adding, “Do not forget to wear a tie-dye shirt.” These buddies knew me from the 1980 s when I used the businesswoman’s uniform: conservative fits with a little bowtie. “How about if simply use a brilliantly colored shirt?” I asked. “CONNECT DYE!” they insisted.


I fulfill Matt for breakfast on the day of the show using a tie color t-shirt.

The band hasn’t taken the stage yet, however most of the crowd is dancing as if to their own music. Practically everybody is standing except for a few couples under their blankets making innovative usages of the descending darkness. I would not be amazed if a minimum of one child called Jerry or Jeraldine is born 9 months from now.

A couple of feet away, a portly, barefoot, grinning, gray-haired man in his early 60 s is trying to dance. Matt points to one corner of the amphitheater where a number of colorfully dressed ladies are spinning in place.

A buzz of excitement whips through the crowd.

With the first note, everyone sways or dances to the music, eyes closed, arms still waving in the air. What would Jason have actually done if he were here, I wonder. I understand he would be grinning and every so often would have winked at me or given me a hug.

I’m moved to attempt a mini-sway.

The crowd joins in and, after a few refrains, so do I. Jason would have loved this!

” Incredible!” he would have stated in every other sentence.

A rainbow of continuously changing psychedelic patterns pulsates on the big video screen behind the band throughout the night. It provides me a sensation of calm I have actually rarely known because before Jason passed away.

I ‘d read about the band’s notorious “wall of noise” that was used in the ’70 s and I ‘d been warned about how loud the music would be, so I brought earplugs. It ends up being a more harmonic experience than I expected. Every few minutes, pot smoke wafts over from the passionate individuals vaping on the blanket beside us. I’m feeling mellow and it’s not simply the pot.

I’m at one giant, gentle celebration where total complete strangers come by, as if we have actually been buddies permanently. When intermission comes, I realize I don’t want this program to end.

One young guy, hardly out of his teenagers, is wearing a two-sizes-too-small tattered green match, no shirt and high-top shoes.

Jason should have been to at least a few of these performances, I believe. Perhaps he even met some of these people.

” This is the last tune,” Matt states, helping me to my feet. The stage comes alive with even brighter colors and flashing lights that make star shapes in the air as the band sings “Casey Jones” to hoots and whistles. Then I hear the lyrics that make me wince: “High on cocaine … “

It began gradually, but gradually I started having difficulty picturing Jason’s face … Even scarier, I could not remember the specific times we invested together … But at this minute, my arm grazing Matt’s, I can all of a sudden picture Jason standing beside me again and I can almost feel our elbows touching.

I wait on the worry I used to feel about those lines that I believed encouraged substance abuse but it doesn’t come. Instead, something else does: a feeling I ‘d believed was long gone. Over the previous couple of decades, the sensation of Jason sitting beside me on the sofa viewing tv, our hips or legs touching, or riding in the automobile and smiling next to me, had disappeared. It began slowly, however over time I began having difficulty imagining Jason’s face: the specific color of his eyes, the curve of his chin. Even scarier, I could not keep in mind the specific times we invested together, or remember the content of our discussions. At this minute, my arm grazing Matt’s, I can suddenly imagine Jason standing next to me once again and I can practically feel our elbows touching.

The feeling is electric.


Music is at the center of my memory of the last time I saw Jason. We were at his dad’s home in Delaware and had the location to ourselves. Jason was taking piano lessons and wished to show me what he ‘d discovered. I slid over on the piano bench next to him, close enough so our bodies were touching. He played Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and each haunting note was perfect. When he ended up, he turned towards me. “Mother, you’re sobbing,” he said as he wiped a tear from my face. “So are you, Sweetie,” I stated doing the very same for him. We grabbed each other for a long, beautiful accept. It was our last one. That moment is etched in my soul. And now so is this one in this field.


The music is winding down and after that Bob Weir appears onstage again, followed by John Mayer. Matt breathes in sharply. “They’re going to play it!” he whispers.

We hear the very first, mild notes of “Ripple.”

I keep in mind Matt had seen 2 Dead shows in Chicago with his spouse, Jennifer, and had emailed me about the tune.

“‘ Ripple’ is a huge offer, because it makes you consider those who have passed on,” he composed. “It’s the first time I heard it live and I had a few tears thinking about Jason.”

Matt slips his arm through mine and we sway with the crowd. When I hear the last words, “If I understood the way, I would take you house …” I understand Matt’s gift has actually lastly allowed me to take Jason home– if just in my heart.

Judy Nelson is in the 15 th year of her encore career as an executive coach and author. She belongs to the Forbes Coaches Council and has law and master’s degrees. For 30 years, she was CEO for child abuse avoidance companies in three states. Judy also hosted an online radio talk show on leadership. Her book “Deliberate Leadership: Using Method in Whatever You Do and State” was released in2016 She has publication credits consisting of Forbes, INC, NextAvenue and TheMuse. Judy lives with the love of her life, a retired doctor who shares his stunning kids, grands and greats. The couple resides in Southern California with Morris, their rescue maltipoo and resident comic. To find out more, visit

A long-lost good friend, a relative you didn’t know about, a romantic partner– reconnecting with someone can be a powerful minute.


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