How do you say goodbye?

A recent parting of the way has gotten me thinking about songs of grief and songs of goodbye. Despite my constant obsession with music, and my musings here about the uses and meanings of music in our lives, I have never had a song specifically for someone who died before. After the recent loss of a (second) loved childhood pet, one that affected me more than I had expected, a song immediately jumped to mind. It was one I hadn’t heard for quite some time, but the poignancy of it (and the memories it brought to the surface) was almost enough to make me cry all by itself.

It was shortly after this that I realized what a first this was for me. I started going back over all the deaths that had touched my life, trying to think of songs associated with those people. But nothing came to mind. In most times of grief, music has left me alone with a sharp and marked silence. This is true of other sad experiences like break-ups, both romantic and plutonic. Suddenly every song I hear is hollow; just doesn’t ring true. Or worse it is a constant reminder of what has been lost and I can’t stand to listen to it. This is the first time that a song has bridged that gap, not only reminding but consoling. And as such, it is worthy of documenting.

The song in question is Cinnamon Girl from Neil Young’s 1969 album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. The goodbye is for Cinnamon, my cat. Our cat really. She was an equal opportunity kind of cat. If you were human and had the ability to feed her, she’d yell at you until you went in the back room and did her bidding. Didn’t matter who you were or if you even knew what she wanted. A sweet and lovable cat at times, Cinnamon was more roommate than pet, as I found out during undergrad when I moved into her domain. I had given up my old bedroom in favor of a private entrance, some more privacy, and my mother’s dreams of having a sewing room. It just so happened that this was the room Cinnamon had claimed for herself. I quickly discovered that living in close quarters with this cat was.. well… interesting. And often noisy. Mostly I remember ┬ánot being able to move my legs in the night without kicking her, having commandeered her own spot of the bed. And yelling at her. Cinnamon was a champion debater and always had to have the last word. Unless you gave in and gave her what she wanted, she’d keep bugging you with a shrill meow every step you took.

But she was still a sweet girl and in time we struck a truce of sorts. Despite moving out several years ago, she still occupies a soft spot in my heart. She had been sick for a while, and may have realized that it was time to go. She passed in her sleep on the old couch in her room at the age of about 16, right about the time my dad started contemplating taking her to the vet. She hated the vet and I am glad she was spared one last visit. She had a good life for a cat and she will be missed. Her connection to this song is mainly through her name and the fact that I would sing it to her sometimes. But there were a few lines that kept repeating over and over in my head last week as I dealt with the news she had passed:

“I wanna live with a Cinnamon girl

I could be happy the rest of my life with a Cinnamon girl.

A dreamer of picture, I run in the night

You see us together chasing the moonlight.

My Cinnamon girl.”

This song has been covered many times and by a wide variety of artists, from Smashing Pumpkins, to Type O Negative, to Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (of the Bangles). Here it is in the original form.

Do you have a song that reminds you of someone now gone?