The birth of my youngest child. Witnessing my son and daughter take their very first steps. Hearing them utter their first words. Seeing them off to school on their first day and feeling a dull ache in my stomach, wondering and worrying if they were going to fit in. And now seeing them blossom into healthy, robust, handsome and beautiful teenagers so full of life, at once mouthy and rebellious, watching as they feel their way in the dark, discovering their own identities and developing their own tastes in music and other things. And cringing when they speak the unfiltered truth at exactly the wrong times.
These are just a few of the things I would've missed out on had I passed away at the very young age of 22 — as did Tickle Me Pink bassist Johnny Schou, found dead last week in the Fort Collins home he shared with his bandmates. And then there are all the people he's left behind; I can only imagine what they're going through right now.
Death is indeed one of life's cruelest inventions. Like everyone else, I've lost my fair share of loved ones. While my father's passing had the most profound impact on my life, I was just as devastated when one of my best friends died by his own hand. Chris and I were just a little older than Schou and his bandmates when it happened. We'd spent the entire afternoon together the day before, and his mom is the one who broke the news to me. My world was shattered. I remember falling to my knees in my kitchen, crying so hard that my nose started bleeding. It took me years to come to grips with his loss. Two and a half years after my father died, I'm still grieving that loss. So while I don't know Schou's friends or family, or Sean Kennedy, who reportedly discovered his bandmate, or any of the other members of Tickle Me Pink, I know the grief they're experiencing. As KTCL played the band's music last Tuesday afternoon and fans called in to elegize the bassist, I thought about my buddy Chris, and how much he's missed and how much he's missed. And I couldn't untie the knot in my gut. I still can't.
There's no word yet on the cause of Schou's death. An autopsy was inconclusive, and it will take weeks for the toxicology report to come back. But regardless of how he died, even if it turns out to be from something other than natural causes — a few insensitive comments on one of the dailies' websites wondered if his death was perhaps drug-related — it's just plain heartbreaking. As numerous other folks have pointed out, this talented young musician had his entire life ahead of him. In an inexplicably unkind twist of fate, Schou died on the very day that the band he co-founded released its national debut, Madeline, on Wind-Up Records. Naturally, his death tainted what would otherwise have been an incredibly joyous occasion for the band, its fans and the entire music community — another one of our own out there on the national stage with a legitimate shot of making a name for itself.
And Tickle Me Pink still may, assuming the surviving members can somehow recapture their vitality. At times like these, though, everything seems to lose its meaning, including music, the very thing that usually gets us through life's most excruciating moments. The healing will take some time; speaking from experience, it's extremely difficult to hear people speaking in the past tense about someone close to you who was just here, much less teaching yourself to do the same — but the human spirit is resilient. It's heartening to hear that the members of Tickle Me Pink are planning to pick up their instruments and soldier on in Johnny's memory.
I think I speak for a lot of us when I say — cliches be damned — you're truly in our thoughts and prayers, guys.