When you lose someone you love, your grief must be expressed. Attempting to suppress it will only result in your grief coming out in an unhealthy way. Your personal health and happiness is affected by how you choose to express it. Rosanne Cash is honoring the memory of her father in way that is not only healing for her family but also for the many fans across the world who loved Johnny Cash. I had the opportunity to meet Rosanne and her aunt Joanne Cash at a fundraiser for the restoration and upkeep of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess, Arkansas. Although she never lived there, Rosanne did visit the home with her father when she was 12 years old. Johnny himself admitted that he had deep ties to his boyhood home and many of his songs were influenced by those memories, some painful. Rosanne said he knew and loved every rock on that property. His most painful memory was likely the loss of his brother, Jack, who at age 15 was in a tragic sawmill accident and died after several days of suffering. It has been suggested that the soulful, brooding Johnny Cash was born that day.
Young J.R., as he was known then, soon learned that people grew weary of him talking about his lost brother and closest friend, so he quit. It is well documented that Johnny dealt with his pain in ways that were unhealthy for years, later finding better ways to express it. Rosanne and the rest of the family have found a healing way to remember J.R., by restoring the boyhood home he loved so much. Purchased by Arkansas State University, the once dilapidated home is now almost exactly like it was in 1935. Joanne Cash, his sister, has been meticulous in her research and remembrance of the home in which they grew up together. She has overseen each detail of the home’s decoration, even down to their mother’s original piano and song books. From their mother they learned that music can sooth a troubled soul and smooth the edges of a rugged existence. The attraction not only portrays the history one of the most popular music artists of all time, but also serves as an example of the lives of impoverished delta farm families in the Dyess colony created by President Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Most of us don’t have a famous family member to whose home tens of thousands of fans would flock each year. Even keeping the room of a lost loved one unchanged is, after time, unrealistic and unhelpful. There are many ways to remember someone that promote growth and healing. Like Johnny, you could express yourself in a song, or write a poem, or a book. Some people plant a tree or a garden. I have known of public gardens in which you can dedicate a section as a memorial with a sign. There are many creative ways that you can have a positive effect on the people and world around you. Yours should reflect both your own memories and creative interests.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Thomas R Machnitzki photographer.
You can learn more about the project at http://dyesscash.astate.edu/.