THE BLOG

A Letter to Yoko Ono on the 25th Anniversary of Her Husband's Death

Dear Yoko,

You told the papers you'd be home today with Sean, so I hope this reaches you. Today of all days, I know you deserve some privacy, a cloak of silence between you and the people and the paparazzi that I'm certain are milling several stories below, just outside your door. I have never spoken to you before, and may never again, but today I must, so I apologize for the intrusion.

Twenty-five years ago today, I was living with my family in a small, concrete block house in Florida. My parents had little money and even less free time, but that day, I'm certain, was a good one; from what I remember, most of the days I lived in Florida were. I do not remember what I was doing at 10:50 p.m., but I was three years old, so I imagine I was sleeping, just as your son Sean probably was.

You were living in New York, in the same apartment you're living in now, 47 years old with a five-year old son. You were leading what seemed to most people a charmed life. At 10:50 p.m., you and John were returning home from the studio where you were working on a new album. He stopped to sign some autographs, and you stepped inside the building.

At that moment, I did not know you any better than I know you now, but it did not matter. When John Lennon was murdered, our world lost something immeasurably precious, and nothing will ever be quite the same for any of us ever again.

I cannot say that his death affected me the way that it must have you – there were many deaths in my family that came later, and they were much more intimate and by far more devastating. But the murder of your husband was my first great loss, and its effects were lasting.

Twenty-five years has not tempered that loss, although it has given it context. History and the Internet have taught us more about him and you than we probably have any right to know. We have learned that John was not God and the Beatles were not Jesus, although some still misinterpret the meaning of that infamous statement as if it were John's egotistic idolatry of his band rather than a simple, but sad statement of the truth of fame.

Your John was far from perfect, but that is part of the reason why we love him so much. As Martin Lewis said in his eloquent Dec. 5 blog, "Lennon's admirers accept those faults just as Martin Luther King's personal failings are put in perspective by the greatness of his achievements." Your John was famous, but more than that he was a flawed and remarkable human being, and what he, and you, believed in means far more than that fame ever will.

Now it is even more important to remember him than ever before. We are living in a vast landscape of deceit and mistrust, shouldering the burden of a war that may be worse than Vietnam, watching members of our government get indicted left and right for reprehensible crimes. We are told over and over that the answer to violence is to return the favor and that the way to build and maintain good government is to make calculating decisions to which no one is held accountable, decisions that knowingly breed hostility and fear.

We know it's not working, so let's try something different. For a change, let's give the beliefs of the peaceniks a chance. Let's live as truly spiritual people and share our faith with steadfast love and forgiveness rather than wielding it as a weapon. Let's operate as a true democracy: let's listen to our citizens and our charges rather than dictating to them what a small collective has decided is in their best interest. Maybe, just maybe, this practice of peace can unify us in a way that war never has. Maybe it can equalize us the way our grief did that day in December 25 years ago.

The world's grief over John's murder will never compare to yours, or to Sean's, or to Julian's, or even to Paul's or Ringo's or the late, great George's. But it is still grief, unwavering and real, and I will not push it away. Like so many, I have reserved a special corner of my heart for John, and my grief brings me closer to every person who has done the same.

Today, I will play his music, the songs that have been a refrain throughout my life, the songs that taught me to love him before I understood who he was: the song my mother sang as a lullaby and then later at my wedding, the album that I danced to every afternoon for a year in middle school, the lyrics that I recited one afternoon that introduced some of my teenage friends to his music. I will listen to his whole collection; someday, I will play it for my children, as my parents did for me. As I listen, I will remember how that music has taken me through the most wonderful and most difficult times in my life and I will hope that someday, my government will heed the message of peace that people everywhere continue to send them.

And as for you, Yoko, I imagine you inside your apartment at the Dakota today, and I hope you are not alone. Perhaps you are making coffee, or tea; perhaps you are resting your hand on Sean's shoulder and he is resting his cheek against it. Perhaps you are listening to your husband's music so you can hear his voice. Perhaps you are looking at photographs. Whatever you are doing to remember him, I hope that you remember both the good times and the bad, every last detail that made up your life with John, and I hope that you find it rich and complicated and satisfying. Most of all, Yoko, I hope that you and Sean will find peace today. It is, after all, what you and John have wanted for us all along.

From Megan,
who loved him too