Source: Personal Files - Joe Feeley

Last summer, you were away.

I listened to Tom Petty a lot then. I spent a lot of time alone, listening to Tom Petty then.

I like a lot of his songs. Obviously, “Free Fallin’” is a tried and true standard. But “Wildflowers” – I found that I loved “Wildflowers.”


Petty feels like summer. Feels like childhood. Feels like memories.

Feels like innocence twinged with sadness.


Last summer I was lost, too. I should know by now that what I really like is working. I’m my happiest when I contribute to something, somehow. I need a little structure, and I don’t enjoy having too much free time. I think too much.

You belong among the wildflowers

You belong in a boat out at sea

Sail away, kill off the hours

You belong somewhere you feel free


Last summer, you were in Puerto Rico, among other places. Between weeks spent at treatment facilities, you were in a boat out at sea. You did sail away. Over several days, you killed off the hours. I know you felt free.

We always felt so free on the water.


Run away, find you a lover

Go away somewhere all bright and new

I have seen no other

Who compares with you


You belong among the wildflowers

You belong in a boat out at sea

You belong with your love on your arm

You belong somewhere you feel free


Run away, go find a lover

Run away, let your heart be your guide


I don’t know what to do about these verses, though. Maybe these are for me now.


Run away. Go away somewhere all bright and new. I think I am running away. I run down the road. I run to Charlottesville.

I run away from the life I had. I’m trying to get somewhere all bright and new. Like you, I want to belong somewhere I feel free. I’ve felt free before, and I miss it. But my heart? I don’t know if my heart should be my guide. It’s not as grounded as I tried to tell myself it was, and I know that now.


You deserve the deepest of cover

You belong in that home by and by


Part of me can’t believe this line is even here. You do belong in that home by and by. You are already there.

I wonder – did I ignore that line completely last summer? Or did I recognize it as a truth yet to be fulfilled? Did I think it would only be realized in several decades, after you lived a full life with me?


You belong among the wildflowers

You belong somewhere close to me

Far away from your trouble and worries

You belong somewhere you feel free


Last summer, I wanted you close to me, not out at sea in the Caribbean. I wanted you safe and whole and healthy. I wanted you free.


Wednesday, I went to your grave site. I don’t usually tell people when I go. I’m not sure why not. We still don’t have real flowers planted or a grave stone for you. I’m not sure why we haven’t decided on your grave stone yet. I wish we had. Encased in its plastic holder, your picture there is fading, just like the primary colors of the petals belonging to the fake flowers on either side. I’m not sure who put them there. But once we have your grave stone and once your Aunt Kathie makes your site beautiful, which was a promise she made that you never heard, you will be among the wildflowers.

It was strange to think of your body beneath me the other day. I started to, but then I changed my thoughts and decided not to think of it. When you died, you weren’t yourself anymore. In so many ways, you were a better version of yourself than you had ever been. But you weren’t the same you. Part of me wishes I had lost all of you then, not so long before. You were so different. You looked so different. The you that was beneath me wasn’t quite the you I wanted to remember.


Now, you are so far away from your trouble and worries. You encountered so much trouble, and had so many worries. I’m so glad you’re free of them all.

I remember a text you sent me. You sent it on a Friday. You sent it on January 27, at 2:34 p.m.

“Hey baby! Just got home from radiation. I love you so so much. I wish it wasn’t so nasty outside cuz it actually makes my bones feel worse cuz of the drop in barometric pressure. I just want peace. I always ask to be healed so maybe I’ll just ask for peace today.”


I know you got your peace, baby. You passed away a month after you sent that text to me. Very few people ask me about that in itself, though, so I don’t tell them. But you were at peace.

I also know you got your healing. And I know you’re finally somewhere you feel free. You’re free forever. I’m not sure how I can be mad at God for that. I’m not mad.


There is one problem, though. You belong somewhere close to me. You’re not here anymore, and I don’t know how I feel about you still being here with me in spirit. I’m not sure it works that way. I don’t know.

I do know your memory is still here with me, in me. It’s here somewhere.

It feels different, but the same. We spent a lot of time apart, and last summer you weren’t really here either. Maybe that’s why it feels so familiar.


Sitting on my floor, I tell myself that this summer will in fact be better than last. I tell myself that the future will be more fulfilling than the past.

Sitting on my floor, I think. I always think. I close my eyes and I think about summer. My room smells like summer. I know that flames flicker in the jars of my Sun & Sand and Beach Walk candles. I think abut walking on the beach with you. I think about vacations and life guard stands and the tanning oil that wouldn’t rub in or come off. I go back. I go forward. I try to forget the sun burn that sent you to the hospital and the withdraw that hit you on Loquillo Beach. I close my eyes and imagine pictures. I imagine pictures of you with your Oakley’s on. I imagine pictures of you with an open smile.

Sitting on my floor, I don’t like mixing stories. I don’t like mixing wildflowers with the Caribbean with the Eastern Shore or the Delaware beaches or the Outer Banks.


I don’t like going back and forth, either.

Back is before. Before you got sick.

Forth is after. After you got sick.

And since – since you passed away is something else entirely. Since is such a short period of time that it remains the most mixed up story of them all. A lot has happened in since, and I’m not sure how it fits with before or after. I am too close to since to know how to define it.


Maybe the stories can mix when I’m on the water. Maybe back and forth and since can all mesh with that common element flowing through them. I some way, maybe the water will help cleanse them all.


You belong somewhere you feel free


We always felt so free on the water.

I will always feel free on the water.


Originally Shared under Facebook Notes.



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