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Journey, music, and death

On 11/16/2013 at 09:13 AM by Ranger1

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I used to try and keep the various components of my life separate – gaming with the gamers, music with the folkies, park stuff separate but equal, etc. I have come to realize that I am unable to keep these things compartmentalized. Bits of all of them had a tendency to bleed over into the other areas and there wasn't anything I could do about it. I came to realize that all of these things are the threads that make up the tapestry of who I am. Hopefully, people from all the circles of friends I belong to will read this and understand what I'm trying to say, because it's all tied together and I can't unknot any of it without the whole thing unraveling.

A year and a half ago, the game Journey was released. After having played it through twice, I was still at a loss for words about how to explain it. I replayed it again a couple of months ago, attempted to write about it, and was again unable to really describe it. It wasn't until I was in the car on Thursday, coming home from seeing my friend Tom off to the Great Beyond, that it struck me, but more on that later.

For those of my non-gaming friends who might be reading this, Journey is a video game. In the game developer's own words: “Journey is an interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with other's” Grammatically incorrect, I know, but that's not the point. Journey is what is referred to a co-op game, which means you play it with others. In most games, you have control over who you are playing with. Co-op games can be either couch co-op (playing with someone sitting next to you) or on-line co-op, where you either set up games with your friends or play with a bunch of random strangers. You can communicate with one another via headsets, if you so desire. The difference with Journey is that you are paired with a random, anonymous stranger, and you can only communicate by a musical ping. You can travel together as long as you wish, help one another out, or completely ignore the other person. Your choice. I recommend looking up game videos referred to as “Let's Plays” to get an idea of what I'm talking about if you are unfamiliar with video games. It's worth it, trust me.

Anyway, back to Tom. He'd been sick for a while. He'd lost his voice and was losing his sight, and was increasingly more and more frail. Linn was with him every step of the way, navigating bureaucratic red tape, hospital stays, and being a 24/7 caregiver. He'd gone into the hospital a week earlier, and the medical folks finally admitted that the end was nigh. We didn't realize just how nigh, though. Wednesday, Linn posted on the folk forum that he'd taken a turn for the worst and had been moved to the hospice and that the end could come at any time. I'd been planning on going down early to the sea music session on Saturday to visit him, but realized that he probably wasn't going to be around that long. I needed to say goodbye, but didn't want to intrude. I decided that I'd call Linn in the morning and go down then, if that was acceptable to her. I slept poorly, I thought he'd go in the wee hours of the morning, quite honestly. When I called in the morning, he was still with us, just not awake. I drove down on a beautiful, sunny day, thinking about how much I would have enjoyed the day more if my friend weren't dying, and that it seemed a shame to die on such a beautiful day. Which is totally idiotic, by the way. I was the second friend to arrive, and more followed me. We took turns hugging Linn, holding Tom's hand, and saying our goodbyes to our friend. And most importantly, we told stories about him, and sang, and played music. He never woke up, and peacefully slipped away among friends who sang him on his way. Actually, he slipped off during the tune Whiskey Before Breakfast, which seems appropriate, as he was the person who introduced me to the joys of fine single malt. We stayed with him for a bit, still singing, and finished up with The Parting Glass. All in all, a good way to go. Painless, surrounded by friends making the music that he loved.

He and Linn spent his last days together in conversation about many things. One of the things they talked about was how Tom was looking forward to this new experience. And I think that may be what made things finally click in my head about the game. As I was driving home, once again admiring the beauty of the day, but thinking instead about what a beautiful day to finish up one's time on this earthly plane, it hit me. My first two play-throughs of Journey were two totally different experiences. The first time, I met a bunch of different people, we traveled together for a bit, and then went our separate ways. The second time, I had the same companion on my journey all the way through. Tom and Linn's relationship was like that second play-through. They'd been together for 33 years, and they had walked together that whole time. The rest of us, Tom's friends, walked with him a little while for just parts of the journey. I wish that I could have taken my Playstation 3 down and showed Tom the game. I think he would have found it interesting. I may try and show Linn at some point.

I feel honored to have been with Tom when he passed, and in being there, I was able to do something for Tom that I couldn't do for my dad: say goodbye, be with him for the start of his final journey, and sing him onward in the company of good friends. I don't know where we go when this turn of the wheel is over, but I like to picture Tom in Valhalla, concertina in hand, being a complete historic anachronism.

I'll finish this up with a couple of music selections, because the common thread we all had with Tom was the music.

The man himself: Tom Hall singing Bound Away for Australia

This one is Si Bheag Si Mhor. It's one of my favorite tunes and one that was played for Tom. I really liked this one, just skip the first 30 seconds and get right to the music.

Keep You In Peace - based on an old Celtic blessing.

The Parting Glass - Iknow many of us know this song from the movie Waking Ned Devine, but Linn hates that version, so I went with a classic.




Matt Snee Staff Writer

11/16/2013 at 09:26 AM

hey Tami, great blog.  

It's interesting what u say about Journey.  They didn't need to add the multiplayer component in there.  And it would have been a successful game without it.  But I don't know if it would have had the same emotional resonance.  Experiencing it with someone else kind of confirms its reality.  

It's a really a spiritual game, and it's unfortunate some people hate it.  Well, to each their own.  I thought it was great, and I too was emotionally affected by it.  Not many games achieve that, and I think to some degree, people don't want that or are incapable of experiencing that at all.  

Anyway, I'm sorry about your friend.  I guess he's on his own journey now, and I imaging there's others with him. 


11/17/2013 at 07:27 AM

Thanks, Matt.

I think the multiplayer component of Journey is what makes it such an emotional game.

And I think Tom and Barry Finn are probably swapping shanties wherever they may be.


11/16/2013 at 11:05 AM

I'd normally say "I'm sorry to see Tom go" but death can also be merciful in some ways. I wouldn't say I believe in heaven in the traditional sense but I do believe positive people become part of a positive energy flow thus they live on in a nicer ascended state. (Assuming they do not choose to reincarnate right away)

But enough of my new-aged Buddhist/Hindu hippy nonsense! Just want you to know I'm here for you,Tami! And I'm quite fond of each of those threads that make you a whole person!


11/17/2013 at 07:31 AM

As far as I'm concerned, the three laws of thermodynamics support the case for reincarnation, so you get no argument from me. And Tom was ready to go. It sounds strange, but it really was a good death. He went on his own terms, peacefully, and surrounded by friends and music. We should all be so lucky.

Glad you appreciate all the non-gaming stuff I write about, by the way.


11/17/2013 at 10:58 AM

I'm guilty of "non gaming related stuff" too so who am I to judge,Tam? But yeah, I do like it when you talk about your trips hiking or just about the Folk-music scene in general. An older friend of mine named John was into many of the same things you are. Every once in awhile he'd take me to Silvermont park in Brevard where Folk musicians would gather and play their hearts out. I can't tell you if there were any "big names" but I do remember the music was beautiful.

I'm glad Tom was surrounded by joy,cheer,and friends when he left this world. Bless him and bless everyone who gave him such a wonderful send off!


11/17/2013 at 11:05 AM

Big names are over-rated. The beautiful thing about folk music is that it's meant for anyone to participate in. Some of the people in the sessions I go to aren't what would be considered good by many people's standards, but that's not what's important. What's important is that they're doing it because they enjoyed it. Tom influenced a lot of people, as evidenced by this article yesterday.


11/16/2013 at 04:44 PM

I think it's great you played music at his passing. What a beautiful scene that must've been. <weepy face>


11/17/2013 at 07:33 AM

Thanks, John. It was. He used to host two sessions, one a weekly and the other a monthly, and they both happeded to fall this past weekend. We overflowed the normal space and raised the rafters in his honor. And they got me to lead a song yesterday, something I have never done there before.


11/16/2013 at 09:49 PM

Wow, first let me say I'm sorry to read about your friend, and it was touching he was surrounded by love and music, before starting his next journey. Thank you for sharing this with us. 


11/17/2013 at 07:34 AM

Thanks, Chris. Just thanks.


11/20/2013 at 12:56 PM

Sounds like a nice way to pass on to the next. I never really gave it much thought on how I'd consider my time when my time. Usually when it comes to death my people don't really focus on what to do at the end but what must be done properly after the end. I do not envy you in being there to see a friend off (I'm not one for goodbyes) but it must have been an honor to be there for them at the end.

I hope I don't sound ill-willed in saying this but perhaps that is something I must go thru if I am to understand that game in that context. I played the game once and never got it, and I've actually walked a desert in my life.

Chris Iozzi Staff Alumnus

11/21/2013 at 09:05 PM


Great blog, beatiful story about the passing of your friend. Surrounded by music and friends is definitely the way I'd want to go.

As for Journey, I finally got a PS3 not to long ago, Journey is one of the first games I picked up because I heard so much about it. Its a perfect example of a game greater than the sum of its parts, the simple but genius way the multiplayer is integrated makes it something that needs to be experienced.

Please read this article, I think you'll agree this pretty much sums it up.


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