I am so very, very sad to read that Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer for the Cranberries, has passed away. She had such a beautiful voice, whether speaking or singing, and I could listen to her for hours.
Her lyrics weren’t always about happy things, but that voice made you want to listen and be part of the joy of being alive, of experiencing something special in life. And for those who, like her, suffered from bi-polar disorder or depression, it lifted one up to want to be part of creating a beauty for others to experience.
Some years ago I received a letter from a penpal in Russia. I was always so excited to hear from Natasha, who sprinkled her missives with “my darling” and “sweetheart” from day one. At one point she sent me a gorgeous samovar that I treasured deeply. I was absolutely smitten with its pretty lines and aura of loving that accompanied its gifting.
I was always so greedy about letters I received, and never could be one to put an unopened one in my purse to read later, at home. No, I tore them open and read at stop lights, my laughter or gigantic smile happily devouring contents. On this day I was so uplifted as I slowed to the red light at 4th Avenue, coming up from behind the post office, a Cranberries CD helping me pump out my emotion and anticipation as my voice used all its strength to release what I held inside.
Like a light switched off, my smile disappeared. Natasha wrote that she had discovered a lump in her breast while she was pregnant with her first child, one she had wanted so much that she refused medical advice to abort in order to receive treatment. She went on to briefly explain the situation but the words I recall most are, “ … and I believe I have a future.” They are imprinted in my mind, which is grand because later someone stole the box of letters that was my treasure chest from abroad, and even now I have to remember her words from the recesses of my mind, where she is still alive for me.
Also sealed into my mind are those songs I listened to as I drove, particularly “Dreaming My Dreams” on through the rest of the No Need to Argue CD. Somehow those vocal intonations reflected my heart’s song: the dread I felt, along with the future Natasha was so sure of. I knew someone in my own life who had recently beaten breast cancer, and so as my goosebumps radiated a chill through me, I poured my tension out, willing it to leave with the flow of song as it escaped my lips.
Continuing to drive, I thought of the narrator’s story in “Daffodil Lament” as she transitions from a period of stagnation, seeming hopelessness—“Holding on, that’s what I do, since I met you”—to a mindset of something brighter ahead. The music is symphonic and shifts with a movement replicating that period of time, and O’Riordan’s voice reflects this as she moves forward:
I have decided to leave you forever
I have decided to start things from here
Thunder and lightning won’t change what I’m feeling
And the daffodils looked lovely today
And the daffodils look lovely today
Look lovely today
Has anyone seen lightning
Has anyone looked lovely
I thought this could very well be my friend’s song, addressed to a disease she stood up to, telling its combined forces that she would not be put down. The last two lines in the excerpt above reflect the storyteller’s determined strength against even thunder and lightning, as she admires the sustained loveliness of a genus representative of both death and good fortune. She chooses the latter and a new life, renewal, she determines to achieve.
Natasha did survive long enough to give birth and be with her daughter, Anna, for a bit, but eventually succumbed to her illness. The day I learned of her passing I also listened to O’Riordan’s amazing voice as she belted out her passions and I absorbed what I could to once more uplift myself, grateful and glad to be alive, even though my voice cracked a few times and, like the poetic music it is, O’Riordan’s voice lured me back to the song as I silently moved in candlelight.
Perhaps for the rest of my life I will always have that connection between my friend Natasha and the voice of Dolores O’Riordan, both of which are everlasting gifts whose memories and legacies enable me to pass a special part of who I am to my own child. A Russian friend told me, the day I sang my heart’s mournful melody in a way not quite like any I have ever before or since, that people in his country believe no one ever really dies as long as there is someone to remember them. I’ve gone back to that so many times in subsequent years, not only because it is such a comforting sentiment, but because I’m naturally inclined to believe the dead deserve our attention, not just for everlasting life, but because they once were. They shared this world with us, and in so many instances what they had with us.
My voice is nowhere near as beautiful as Dolores O’Riordan’s—not by a long shot. In fact, there are very few people I will sing in front of because, well, my singing leaves a lot to be desired. Simultaneously I have been either blessed or cursed with a physical recognition that flows within my veins, of the power it holds over me, of the lifeblood that is song for humans, and that most often simply bursts from my heart when it is caged.
Today I will be lighting candles for Dolores O’Riordan, not because I knew her—I didn’t—but for the memories she contributes to and the gifts she shared with us, her own heart’s songs that memorialize so much of the struggles of life. We often wish to forget them, but she gave them attention because of their link to the humans we care about.
Thank you, Dolores O’Riordan, and rest in peace.