And I Quote: On Tributes & Loss

Among my collection of quotes are a few that pay tribute to some of the people who have had special meaning for me. People who have touched my life–and, perhaps, yours, as well–and who have contributed significantly through their art and passion.

We embraced them, we were inspired by them. Their lights flickered on this earth for a brief moment in time, giving us strength, joy and love, through their music, their writings, their creativity and their vibrant spirits. These are people I admire, who enriched our lives, and who are now no longer with us.

Nobody could do scat like Ella, the "First Lady of Song."

Each persevered through life, sometimes at great odds, sometimes facing challenges and incomprehensible tragedy on the world stage. We witnessed one, as a little boy, salute his father for the last time; another lose her life in a fiery crash. One had a voice like melted honey, and made a new form of jazz all her own, though no matter how great her gift, she still had to enter through the backdoor to some of the clubs where she would perform. Two couldn’t cope with their incredible talent for writing poetry and prose, and the state of their mental health made it impossible for them to go on. And, one will always remind me of my parents, and how they’d play his records on the Hi-Fi, over and over.

And, though they’re all gone, they always will be here, in our hearts and minds, still bringing us joy, every time we pick up a book, play one of their songs, and remember their inner grace and beauty. These quotes are eloquent, expressive remembrances, and worthy of the subject being revered:

On Frank Sinatra:

“But it was the deep blueness of Frank’s voice that affected me the most, and while his music became synonymous with black tie, good life, the best booze, women sophistication, his blues voice was always the sound of hard luck and men late at night with the last $10 in their pockets trying to figure a way out. On behalf of all New Jersey, Frank, I want to say, ‘Hail brother, you sang out our soul.’”  – Bruce Springsteen


On Ella Fitzgerald:

Where (Billie) Holiday and Frank Sinatra lived out the dramas they sang about, Miss Fitzgerald, viewing them from afar, seemed to understand and forgive all. Her apparent equanimity and her clear pronunciation, which transcended race, ethnicity, class and age, made her a voice of profound reassurance and hope. – Stephen Holden, New York Times 1996

On Sylvia Plath:

“You were transfigured

So slender and new and naked

A nodding spray of wet lilac

You shook, you sobbed with joy, you were ocean depth

Brimming with God.”

–      Ted Hughes’ poem to Sylvia Plath (to whom he was married), from Birthday Letters

Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton.

On Anne Sexton:

“Suddenly my childhood nightmare had a name and a date. It was reality—not just some wolf under the bed…

“…I looked for a plain box but there was none. This room was full of Cadillac’s, each model padded like a baby’s bassinet, swathed in silks and satins, each displayed on its own pedestal and with its own price tag discreetly tucked under the bedding. Astonishingly beautiful with their wood of burnished mahogany, the caskets aroused in me the first sadness to rise above the shock of disbelief: my mother’s body would lie, cold and final, here.”

– Both quotes are from Linda Gray Sexton, on learning of her mother’s death, in her heartfelt, beautifully-written memoir, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton

On John F. Kennedy, Jr.:

“His moral compass directed him to an honorable, charitable life. He kept his bearings despite the tragedies he experienced. It is profoundly sad that he is gone. His heart was as big as his mind, and with the deaths of John, Carolyn and Lauren Bessette, our optimism died a little, too. God bless you in heaven. – Glamour magazine, October 1999

On Diana, the People’s Princess: (Check out my post comparing myself to her: The Princess and the Gal from Queens)

“I stand before you today the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock. We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana but in our need to do so.” – From eulogy delivered by Earl Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother September 1997

And one more–

On Charles Dickens: (For those of you who missed my interview, 200-Year-Old Man Gives Dickens of an Interview)

“His death, in many ways, also marked the end of the Victorian age, although Queen Victoria would rule for many years to come. For when readers look back on that era today, it is not England’s queen that they recall. It is Pip, encountering a mysterious convict in the marshes of East Anglia. It is David Copperfield fleeing his evil stepfather, and Nicholas Nickleby discovering the horrors of a Yorkshire boarding school. It is Nell dying, and Nancy being murdered, and Miss Havisham endlessly living on, perpetually dressed for her wedding day. And it is Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, the Aged Parent and the Infant Phenomenon, the Artful Dodger, the dipsomaniacal Sairey Gamp, the obsessive Bradley Headstone, the hapless Miss Flite, and all of the other more than 2,000 men, women, and children that Charles Dickens created to touch our hearts and to ‘brighten, brighten, brighten’ our days.” – Biography Magazine, March 2000

So, tell me, who has made a difference in your life, through their art or other contribution? And, would you pick any of these?

45 thoughts on “And I Quote: On Tributes & Loss

  1. There are so many inspiring people out there! They take us to task, remind us of the beauty in even the darkest moments. Making our life count is the only things we can do, we must, we must!

    • Jodi, I couldn’t have said it better! Making life count is my number one priority. Which is why I blog. Which is why I write. Which is why I enjoy visiting other blogs–like yours! 🙂

  2. Such a great post Monica – love what Bruce Springsteen has said about Sinatra, I do love that smooth voice. I would add Dean Martin to that. Dickens… yes! yes! and Princess Diana of course. I love what she did for people. She actually deserved the title HRH, I am still annoyed the Queen took that away from her. She may have used the media but it was to highlight the plight of so many that needed world support. Lovely Ella – who will ever replace her? no one.
    I also add the Dalai Lama, Lord Tennyson and Bernard Shaw who was incredibly witty and laughed at so many of the hoity toity British aristocrats, that I can watch My Fair Lady over and over again – also if our beloved CF takes on the role of Henry Higgins, I will be right there supporting him – all the way from here of course, um, and through my blog 🙂

    • Dean Martin sang a few songs that I really, really adore, like “Volare.” Are you familiar with that one?

      Also, re Dickens, be sure to watch Great Expectations on public TV. It starts tonight!!

      • I love Volare, and Baby it’s cold outside – not many like that song but I do. I also love his version of ‘Under the Bridges Of Paris and my favorite ever Dino song – Return to me.
        Ooooh, I did watch ‘Great Expectations’ thank you. So exciting.

  3. Some of my inspiring favs here — I could just dwell on the quotes re: Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, followed by your eloquent intro. Of course, as you know from the quote that headlines my blog, Leonard Cohen has more than a line or two to inspire me: ‘There is a crack in everything . . . that’s how the light gets in.’

  4. ***You shook, you sobbed with joy, you were ocean depth

    Brimming with God.”**

    Oh, My, I soooo appreciated this, Monica.

    & i am sooo going to steal your Idea :))))

    Plath has been in my life for so many reasons, & I Adore her…Nobody can quite capure an image like her…

    I remember what Anne Sexton said after she heard the news of Plath’s suicide.

    She jumped up and screamed, “That was supposed to be my death!”

    You see, they used to sit together sipping martinins and decide how they would kill themselves.

    Oh, to be a fly on the wall….

    What a Great Post. Xxx Happy Sunday.

    • Kim, I love that line, too. It’s my favorite. And, Sylvia Plath, don’t get me started on her. She was a genius and her writing was so real, honest and sharp. Anne Sexton said that? I had no idea. That’s a fascinating story. Thanks for letting me know! Would’ve been wonderful to have the chance to join them for a martini just once!

  5. What a lovely piece, Monica. I just finished reading “Come to the Edge,” by Christina Haag who had a love affair with JFK, Jr for several years starting in college. It’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read and gave me such insight into the man whose father was one of the great inspirations of my life. I remember riding my bike around the neighborhood handing out campaign literature about him when I was ten.

    And Diana… I stayed up till 2:00 a.m. to watch her wedding live and did the same for her funeral.

    Nowadays, writers like you inspire me, my friend. Good work.

    • Jayne, the book by Christina Haag sounds wonderful. And, re Diana, I think a lot of us stayed up to watch the wedding. I remember how beautiful she looked in her gown.
      I am so touched by your kind words. Thank you so much!

  6. I lived in the UK when Diana was still the alive. I confess to having a girl-crush on her. Such a beauty she was. I admire her strength to overcome and move forward with her life. And what a big life she had. I was sad when she was killed, such a waste.

    I was more influenced by Edna St Vincent Milay, the poet. She lived life on her own terms. In writing I am influenced by the story and the language. I have a few sheros and heroes. My biggest influences is and will always be music, the singer/songwriters, the poetry in a song can lift a person’s soul or bring them down to the ground.

    JFK – I can’t say he influenced me, but I thought he would have been amazing if he had lived.

    (On your labor of love, keep working on it. I know uncertainty is part of this writing process. The trick is to keep those fingers click it-clacky and the mind churning.)

    • Brenda, I haven’t really read the work of Milay. Is there any particular poem you recommend?
      JFK, Jr didn’t so much influence me, yet I did feel a connection. I remember when his father was in the White House. I remember all the photos of the children that would appear in Life and Look magazines. And I remember the salute he gave his father as the coach with the coffin inside, passed by. It’s an iconic moment. So the entire family always had a special place in my heart.

  7. I have been looking for and finding for a buck or two in the thrift shops all the
    Frank Sinatra albums records. I don’t care if the records are any good I want the covers for wall display. Now I look for all the Italian singers from the 50’s and 60’s. Cool hobby and cheap and eventually will cover a whole wall !

    • Carl, I love that idea of collecting album covers, and Frank had so many! So, how many have you been able to gather so far? I’ve got about 200 of his songs on my iPhone playlist. His voice was distinct and sheer perfection.

  8. I love Sylvia Plath. Her work was so great and her story is such a sad, emotional trip that I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be in her mind. I really enjoyed this piece, Monica! It’s almost 3 AM in Texas and I cannot seem to sleep. Maybe it would help to get off the computer, but I couldn’t help catching myself up in your Tangled Web.

    • Nate, I was up almost as late as you. Did you see what time I commented on your lottery story? It’s the writer’s curse. Some of us work best when we write in the wee hours of the morning. Don’t know why that is, but it’s true. I’m so glad you appreciate the work of Sylvia Plath. I loved her, too.

  9. I remember, so well, watching Diana’s funeral on television. I cry at funerals, even on TV. Silly me. And remember a lady at work telling me JFK, Jr’s plane was missing. Tragedies on both counts. But yes, one does remember their light.

  10. Well done, Monica! I loved this eloquent post and your way of celebrating these people who inspired you. I’m most inspired by people like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama, and their words of wisdom about persistence and peaceful resolutions. Thankfully they are all still alive! John Lennon was another inspiring soul who made a tremendous impact on me. I’m sure there are some great quotes about him too.

    • John Lennon is also one of my faves, and I’m sure you’re right that they’re are great quotes about him. But when he died, I wasn’t yet collecting quotes. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that I really started my collection.

  11. Monica, another winning post on something we all love–quotes! I like the twist on this one–having someone else’s express why these special people were loved and respected. I love quotes by Mother Teresa and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. So inspiring! I’m sorry you stayed up late to write this post but if it’s any consolation, it was worth it! 🙂

    • Yes, Bella, I love this twist, too. Frankly, I don’t think I could have said any better. I especially like what Springsteen wrote about Sinatra. I get goosebumps each time I read the line, “Hail brother, you sang out our soul.”

    • Shary, You’re right! I didn’t plan it to be that way, but as I read and re-read these quotes I realized that’s what it is. In fact, initially I didn’t have the introduction that is here. I barely had two lines, but then, late last night I realized how much these people meant to me (Which is why I saved these quotes in the first place), and had to add my introduction to explain. So I’m really glad you liked it. I hope you create your own version!

  12. Now here we must disagree with regard to Princess Diana Monica. To be honest I was never a fan she always came across in my eyes as somebody who worked the press to her advantage when they were on her side then condemned them loudly when they weren’t.

    Charles Dickens is another matter, he was a superb writer and captured the era the stories were written in. His character development was faultless. In my top 5 authors without a doubt. Anybody who does not read his works is missing out on a lot.

    I remember seeing a quote once that said “Where your from is not as important as where you go in your life”. Shame I can’t remember who said it!!

    Another good blog posting, enjoyable to read.

    • Thank you so much, Robert. But regarding Diana, you should understand, we Yanks had a great love affair with her. We couldn’t get enough. Her marriage and it’s dissolution parralleled mine, and I actually found some comfort in that.

      I love Dickens and I always watch Masterpiece here, on public television, for they show many BBC productions of his novels. Coming up soon, a new version of Great Expectations.
      I’m genuinely delighted you enjoy my blog.

      • Yes I know what you mean about the Americans love for Diana.

        She was one of the Royals I have never met, I had met The Queen and Prince Phillip when they visited RAF Cranwell and I was working there. They were both really nice and we chatted for quite some time.

        Prince Edward visited the railway station I run on our 30th Anniversary and was a really nice Man I have a picture of him chatting to my wife and a chap who helped us at the station, he asked if the picture was OK and if I wanted to try for another.

        I must admit to being a Pro-Royal person though many are not.

      • As you no doubt know, I have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who has a thing for royals. I believe he gets that from me. 😉

        All this to say, how lucky you are to have met and chatted with so many royals. Many years ago, when I lived in Seattle, I had a fleeting glimpse of the Queen, having been one of many to have procured a ticket to see her. But I was standing at quite a distance, though I’d swear when she lifted her hand in one of those famous waves of hers, she was looking right at me. 😉

  13. Wow, the quotes on Plath and Sexton are especially compelling for me, as I have had my own mental health issues. “Searching for Mercy Street” is a powerful book–read it years ago. And, God, the Ted Hughes writing about Plath as wet lilac–I had never read that–incredible image!

    • Searching for Mercy Street is one of the best memoirs I’ve read, and I read it around the time I lost my own mother, so these quotes spoke to me. For losing my mother was, for many years, my biggest fear.

  14. Thank you Monica. As I told you once, I love quotes and lyrics, and especially like today’s post where all the quotes are new for me, so I’m learning !

      • I got messages that when I reply to comments on my Blog, my friends are not getting notifications by email for my replies, so i came here now to say how grateful i am that you are reading my posts and taking time to comment. I really appreciate your support, not to my writings, but to me, to who i am. Thank you for accepting me as i am.

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