Hamilton

A month ago I went to see this at the Kennedy center, with some great friends, and thanks to my friend Jen’s incredible perseverance to get tickets!  Her husband took this shot of us…. now I’m trying to refrain from the “I’m not throwing away my shot” joke…mvimg_20180809_192341I could not have been more excited.  I’d been listening to the music, and its just so great.  Honestly.  It’s story telling at its best.  Lin-Manuel Miranda rivals only J.K. Rowling in my mind with artistry of words.  But lyrics… to music.  Oh my goodness.  Words fail me.  I would recommend seeing it to anyone who has the opportunity.  So what do the lyrics mean to me? Where I am now, in my life…. in my journey of grief and healing?

Of course Hamilton, an American Musical is about American History, which I love, its about politics; it pushes you to think a little differently about both of those things.  But above all, it is a story.  And it is a story about love and loss and healing.  Romantic love, the love of a parent, the love of a country, the love of freedom, and the ideals of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  Loss through death, loss through War, loss through betrayal, embarrassment and disappointment.

I guess all of us are living a life that is a story about love and loss and healing.  Maybe they all take slightly different forms, but these three things are essentially what our stories are all about.

I could go on at length about what so many of the songs meant to me, but I will pick just three, in honor of Angelica’s “three fundamental truths”…

Aaron Burr is “the villain in your history” and this story of course, but his story is also told in a very relate-able way.  He may not have taken very distinctive political stances but his life was full of love and loss… and hopefully some healing…  This was one of my favorite songs, “Wait for it” which he sang:

Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break

And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it
I’m willing to wait for it

I am the one thing in life I can control

I hope that I do not spend my life waiting.  But I do need to remind myself sometimes that I am the one thing I can control.  I can’t control anything else, but my own actions, choices, responses, attitude. I also know that not everyone who loves me has died… but  the one who loved me… the one who loved me the most, in a complete 360 degree way, in the way everyone dreams of being loved… he has died, so if there’s a reason that I’m still alive….
OK, I also just have to mention two other songs that I won’t quote… one is “Burn”.. it is so well-done.  The most perfectly eloquent song about response to public betrayal.  Whether or not you can relate personally, it makes you feel so much.  The other is “Non-Stop.” It is a long-ish song.  It tells so much story, and it incorporates almost every other song from the musical together into one song in the most beautiful way, and exhibits how everything comes together.
Also.. the songs King George does are hilarious.  They are so ridiculous… informative and ridiculous… and then when he jumps in with “he’s never gon’ be president now” in the Reynolds Pamphlet… just hilarious.
Later in the play, after the Reynolds Scandal, Alexander and Eliza’s 19 year old son, Philip, dies in a dual.  Unimaginable.  This song could have been called that.  Alternately, it is called “It’s Quiet Uptown”:
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable
This.  So very much, this.  Our family’s story was just so very unbelievable… unimaginable.  No one could get their head around it.. suffering too terrible to name.  What else can you do?  But push away?  So often, I have been so deep, when it would have been easier, so much easier, to just swim down.  And yet… I learn to live with the unimaginable.  I learn every day.
You knock me out, I fall apart
Look at where we are
Look at where we started
I know I don’t deserve you, Eliza
But hear me out
That would be enough
If I could spare his life
If I could trade his life for mine
He’d be standing here right now
And you would smile, and that would be enough
This part reminds me in a different way of Tim’s dad.  It’s a different context, for sure.  But how many times I heard him express his desire to trade his life for his son’s.   It is the pain of a parent, that I can imagine, that I have seen with my eyes, but I have not lived.
I don’t pretend to know
The challenges we’re facing
I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost
And you need time
But I’m not afraid
I know who I married
Isn’t that the truth?  I know who I married.  This time has shown me how very much I know who I married.  For that, I am grateful.
If you see him in the street, walking by her side
Talking by her side, have pity
Eliza, do you like it uptown? It’s quiet uptown
Look around, look around, Eliza
(They are trying to do the unimaginable)
This part reminds me so much of the interesting use of words.  Of their meaning, and of choosing words carefully.  I never liked the word “pity.”  It has such negative connotations in our society.  No one wants to be pitied.  Certainly, I never wanted pity.  Then, a circumstance arose where I could have felt many things… but what I felt was pity.  I didn’t want to say that to the person I pitied though, because it felt mean.  And that’s not what I wanted to convey.  Meanness or ill-will was not what I was feeling.  So I looked up the meaning of “pity” almost for a thesaurus option, and the very definition of the word was exactly how I felt for this other person: the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.  And then I realized, that I have no shame for all of the pity others have felt for me.  Why should I?  Should I not be grateful that I have people in my life who are caring enough to have sorrow and compassion for the suffering and misfortune my children and I have endured, and continue to endure for the sudden loss of the love of my life, of their father?
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
They are standing in the garden
Alexander by Eliza’s side
She takes his hand
It’s quiet uptown
Forgiveness.. Can you imagine?  Forgiveness.  Can you imagine?
Have pity… they are going through the unimaginable.
I resound with these words so much when I think about how others see us.  Everything we have experienced, and do experience, I know is (to others) unimaginable.  And yet, to us, it is life.  It is hard to imagine.
May we all experience the forgiveness.  May we all experience a grace too powerful to name.
And the final song in the play… “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”  Isn’t that what it is all about? When I have read about others’ discomfort with the widowed finding love again, that is often how it is explained that others feel… would their spouse “move on” so quickly?  What does their life mean?  Who would keep their flame, who would tell their story?  The thing that maybe only the widowed can really understand, is that we may move forward, but we never move on.

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control, who lives, who dies, who tells your story?…….

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame, who tells your story? Who tells your story (who tells your story?)

(Eliza) I put myself back in the narrative
I stop wasting time on tears
I live another fifty years, it’s not enough

Wow.  That’s possible.  I could live another 50 years…

I try to make sense of your thousands of pages of writings
You really do write like you’re running out of time (time)

He really did… My Tim.  He ran out of time.

I rely on Angelica
While she’s alive, we tell your story
She is buried in Trinity Church, near you
When I needed her most, she was right on time

Isn’t this the truth? My sister was absolutely right on time, when I needed her most.

And I’m still not through
I ask myself, what would you do if you had more time? (time)

You could have done so much more if you only had time
And when my time is up, have I done enough?

Will they tell our story? (will they tell your story?)
Oh, can I show you what I’m proudest of? (The orphanage)
I established the first private orphanage in New York City
(The orphanage)
I help to raise hundreds of children
I get to see them growing up (the orphanage)

OK, this is something I can’t exactly do but… are there other things that I should be doing?

In their eyes I see you, Alexander
I see you every time

In A, R and D’s eyes, I see Tim.  I see him every time.

And when my time is up, have I done enough?
Will they tell my story? (will they tell your story?)
Oh, I can’t wait to see you again
It’s only a matter of time..

Those last two lines haunt me.  I hear them in my head so often now.  When I miss him the most… I hear them at the gym.  Or when I am driving in my car, alone….. and after all, I guess it is true.

… I can’t wait to see you again.  It’s only a matter of time…

Author: marybethgaige

Mother. Sister. Daughter. Widow. Friend. Worker. Lover.

3 thoughts on “Hamilton”

  1. Read the book – loved it. It’s what inspired Lin-Manuel. Would love to see the play, but now I must get music. Words and music are so powerful in the hands of those good at it. So glad you got to see it

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