Carefully placed words conjure up intense mental images. Words evoke emotional thought relative to any particular scene or setting. I love words for all their ability to please and entertain and create mood and thought in almost any thinking individual.
Words that are strung together like perfect shiny pearls designing a crisp photo necklace wearable by one’s mind is a valuable creative power never to be diminished whether audible or written. Words are controlled power.
On rare occasion the tables are turned and no distribution of syllables adequately replace certain images. I see a photo of my three newborn infants and I am still awestruck by their tiny perfection. I witness an ocean sunset but no adjective has a bright enough luster to shine like surveying the fiery horizon in person. Standing feet from Elvis Presley is still captured in my head, but not adequately displayed by even the most vibrantly inked words. These few come immediately to mind.
An image captured on August 18th, 1977 shows a long procession of pure white limousines surrounding a single white hearse, the ghostly train slowly snaking down Elvis Presley Boulevard. I see this single still photo and to this day the sight evokes a harsh reality I cannot fully describe.
The sight itself brings an immediate enhanced awareness of the severe permanence. The truth punches me in the gut every time and I fight the tears. My heart momentarily breaks again. Forty three years and still it hits hard. I revisit a truth I never wanted and a reality I never imagined.
I see photos of Vernon at the funeral and the brokenness is touchable, his frailty magnified by the weight of loss. The sea of flowers surrounding the mausoleum doesn’t provide the usual allure of nature’s beautiful bounty. Instead each stem and petal represent the intense loss hundreds of thousands of nameless hearts felt that day. The expansive sea of individuals lining the route aren’t merely people paying their respects. It represents story after story of how this one beloved man touched, enhanced and embraced all the souls he’d never have the chance to know.
The men carrying his bronze casket needed their collective strength and composure, knowing that each steady step they took was accompanied by a weakening weight of loss, but girded by shared sorrow and solidarity of responsibility to their dear friend.
None of us had any thought of the word legacy on that awful day. Our painful focus was on placing one foot in front of the other, absently doing the next thing while decidedly wondering how we could. The listening ears of shattered hearts worldwide owned the musical airways. We stayed tuned for any and all coverage.
I heard a tribute that reasoned, how could one imagine an old Elvis? My immediate thought was the alternative was far worse. Grief had no instruction manual to download. Heartbreak was no longer the temporary residence of his song but a very real domicile where we had all checked in. Those days were just plain hard.
Time moves down life’s highway whether we are willing passengers safely buckled in or thrill seeking daredevils hanging on. Memories become touchstones for happier thoughts, never erasing the sad longing but eventually mixing it with gratitude for that which we were given.
I miss him every single day. I don’t reason it or explain it or rationalize it. I simply accept it. Over the passage of time, my sadness without has become gladness within. My sorrow of loss also cradles a joy for what will always remain. The long white limousine may have provided his final earthy ride, but the reality is this – he will never truly be gone, never be forgotten, and never be irrelevant.
Elvis Aaron Presley lives on in the connective hearts he touches through his life and his music. He continues to bring people together, soothing souls, and giving the multitude a solid shelter from the bitter storminess of life’s harsher realities.
Elvis still matters and Elvis still lives.