I’ll Be Here When It All Gets Weird

Flogging Molly is a band you may know. Dennis J. Casey, Nathen A. Jeglinski, Bridget A. Regan, Robert Anthony Schmidt, George Edward Schwindt, Matthew A. Hensley, and David R. King, so far as I know, are the writers and owners of the copyright for the song below, If I ever Leave This World Alive. And I thank them for these words.

If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll thank you for all the things you did in my life
If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll come back down and sit beside your feet tonight

Wherever I am, you’ll always be
More than just a memory
If I ever leave this world alive

If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll take on all the sadness that I left behind
If I ever leave this world alive
The madness that you feel will soon subside

So, in a word, don’t shed a tear
I’ll be here when it all gets weird
If I ever leave this world alive

So when in doubt, just call my name
Just before you go insane
If I ever leave this world, hey, I may never leave this world
But if I ever leave this world alive

She says I’m okay, I’m alright
Though you have gone from my life
You said that it would
Now everything should be all right

She says I’m okay, I’m alright
Though you have gone from my life
You said that it would
Now everything should be all right
Yeah should be all right


It’s been ten years and a day since my nephew died from complications of leukemia. The story, for those familiar with this site, is not a mystery: The boy went to boot camp where he turned 18 years old, got suddenly ill, and was hospitalized for three weeks before his body succumbed to the complications of the disease. He had no prior history of cancer. He was away from home for the first time, really, into adulthood. But he did not leave this place alone. Andy left the world, and the world stayed alive and kicking.

This song met me in the depth of my grief. It seemed to speak truth into existence upon every listening. I wasn’t okay for a long while. I shed many tears. I railed and I whimpered.

Today, ten years on and a fair few deaths since, I feel like I can say “I’m okay, I’m alright, though you have gone from my life. You said that it would, now everything should, be all right.” I say it with the tension of unshed tears on my throat. I say it looking down the dark tunnel of pandemic. I say it a handful of years from launching my own kids into the world.

Again, if you’re a longtime reader here this is not news, but I made my nephew a promise the morning he died. I told him I would stay for it all. For every hard and dark and scary thing, and every joyful and bright thing. I promised I would stay. So far, it’s a promise I’ve kept, and I plan to keep it.

I’ll be here when it all gets weird. Andy says that to me through the song. I say that to myself through the song.

In this time when everything is weird, I’ll be here. This is where you’ll find me. Wherever I am. Always.

Book Camp 2020, Day 5

We had a visitor mid-day! My sister and her husband arrived in time to visit with campers and feed us lunch. Then we topped it off with a short video and cake and ice cream. A celebration!

I may have cried.

The body knows certain dates without a calendar. Tuesday was one. The 14th. The day was my grandfather’s birthday; one hundred and eleven years since his birth. He has been gone now many years. But I remember it. I feel it creep over me, a mixture of joy and sorrow.

Today is one of those kinds of days, too. The 17th of July. The date I first became an aunt. Way back in the nineteen hundreds, as my kids say. My eldest nephew–Andy–was so…much. He was funny and set the standard in our family for grandchildren. He could be very serious with his blonde hair and chocolate-brown eyes.

As a youngster, he liked brown M&Ms the best; they tasted most like chocolate. As a great big teenager, he ran the gamut of teenagerness, I suppose. But he loved his family. And he loved a special person. And he joined the army. And all was supposed to grow and grow and grow.

My sister, Andy, and me at Andy’s high school graduation, 2010

He went to boot camp, not yet 18. He turned that magical age while away. Then, he died.

Leukemia took him in three weeks’ time.

His brother was 12. His cousins, the ones book camping now were 5, 5, 3, 3, and 2.

The five-year-olds have a couple of concrete memories. I’m not sure about the three-year-olds, scraps if anything. The two-year-old remembers nothing of him, save for our family stories.

In a few weeks it will have been ten years since Andy’s death. I feel it wash over me, hot and acidic.

But days like today come. And we are intentional. And we eat birthday cake and we look at pictures of Andy and we take more pictures.

Because I promised Andy near the very end. I promised him I would stay for the hard stuff. I had no idea how hard some of that stuff would be.

And then 2020. The campers feel the weight of lost seasons, lost school, lost friend time. They bear that on their backs as they try to find some shred of normalcy. But the news isn’t getting much better. It’s just not getting too much worse for them.

Over breakfast, a discussion of Halloween arose. I can’t imagine there being a Halloween this year. “As long as it’s all over by Thanksgiving,” Wasabi said. I tempered their enthusiasm.

Now is the time to live in the now. Maybe more than any other moment in my lifetime. We cannot live for the start of a sports season or the start of school. Not for Halloween or Thanksgiving. Not for the weekend even. We have to live for right now. We have to make this moment count, whatever that means to us.

Yes, we mourn the social losses. We allow ourselves to say how much this whole Covid-19 thing sucks. And it does.

But then we remember that we are more than football and school and holidays and movie theatres. We remember that we are here with purpose. We remember we are here at all.

And we eat our cake and carry on with book camp and make tentative tangible plans for the future we hope exists in some form.

Today was also the first day of C is for Character, and the campers completed a worksheet called the tabula rasa, the clean slate, to intentionally inform their main character. Today in B is for Business, the campers learned about publishers and printers, and they put together a publication schedule.

They wrote six-sentence stories with the other parents who came to visit. They played in the morning rain. They hooted and howled as the X-Box heated up with their play. They tucked away their hurts and their worries and held onto the day. I can ask no more than that.