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Through the Window

from 2020101 (2021) by Shannon Curtis

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It would be impossible to create a picture of our collective human experience of the year 2020 without acknowledging the enormous loss of life at the center of it. The week in which we’re releasing this song — the last week of February, 2021 — the United States crossed a somber threshold — over 500,000 known deaths from covid-19.

I remember trying to imagine, at the beginning of the pandemic, the number of lives we were in danger of losing if the virus was allowed to spread uncontrollably. I recall feeling it like a sucker punch to the gut when I had the realization, “We could lose a half a million people.” And here we are.

That is a devastating number.
500,000 human people …
… who were living and loving and being loved just a year ago
… now just … gone.

But I have to admit … this week’s news didn’t hit me like the sucker punch I’d imagined it to be a little less than a year ago. I wondered why; and I believe that — like a lot of folks — in being bombarded with bad news after bad news, and by steeling myself against the enormity of the trauma and stress of this time, I have become somewhat inured to the full weight of the devastating reality of death.

It’s not that I don’t feel it. It’s just that I think I’ve instinctively learned to buffer myself from the sharpest edges and the biggest blows, as a survival mechanism. And I recognize that the ability to offer myself that buffer is a privilege … because I — by some stroke of luck — did not lose anyone very close to me last year.

But of course, that’s not the case for many, many — way too many — people.

In our story collecting, we heard from dozens of people who did lose close loved ones in 2020 — sisters, fathers, partners, children, cousins, best friends. And these folks didn’t, and don’t, have the privilege of allowing the devastation of death to recede into the background of an otherwise hard year.

For them, the unimaginable chaos of the world around them is what receded into the background,
as their most consequential experience in 2020 came blazing to the front:
the opening up of a permanent empty space,
where a person they love used to be.

And it wasn’t just covid-19 deaths. People shared about the illness and loss of loved ones from other causes in 2020 — the realities of which were made more difficult and more painful because they happened in the context of a pandemic-altered world:

… not being able to comfort their loved ones as they received care in a healthcare facility
… unsatisfying attempts at being present with them on video calls, or through ground floor windows
… accepting that it would be a healthcare provider, not a family member or friend, by their side as they took their last breaths
… being unable to bury them, or to have a service to honor their memory, or to participate in any of the traditional rituals that help us grieve.

So we offer “Through the Window” —
to honor the personal and intimate details of loss that people experienced in 2020,
to acknowledge the perpetual nature and ongoing process of grief,
and … to remember.

lyrics

Permission came too late to get inside
You slipped away, a stranger by your side
We came back the next day to collect your things
I’ll keep them safe for you — your shoes, your rings
I’ll keep them safe for you

I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to you
If we had known that that was the very last time
You, through the window, and I
Was trying to make you smile

I play that last scene over in my mind
Like being stuck on both pause and rewind
The world is chaos but that’s second to
This empty space that still belongs to you
This empty space for you

I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to you
If we had known that that was the very last time
You, through the window, and I
Was trying to make you smile

credits

from 2020101 (2021), track released February 26, 2021
written and performed by Shannon Curtis

produced, mixed, and mastered by Jamie Hill
at Department of Energy Management, Tacoma

co-produced, programmed and recorded by Shannon
additional programming and recording by Jamie

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all rights reserved

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about

Shannon Curtis Tacoma, Washington

Shannon Curtis is an artist who works as a songwriter, storyteller, and author. Shannon lives in Tacoma, WA and makes artpop music with her husband, producer / mixer Jamie Hill (deptofenergymgmt.com/work).

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