ABBA Revival

By Emma Pearson

December 4, 2021

4 September 2021

Image by Andrew Ebrahim on Unsplash

When I landed back at Geneva airport this week, after a few days of business travel in Sweden (my first business travel in over 18 months), I headed over to the luggage collection belts. While waiting for my luggage to come through, I skimmed the BBC news website for a while, and came across the news of the ABBA reunion.

I scrolled through the text, fully identifying with the writer’s own “special relationship” with the group over the decades, and clicked on the video of one of their new songs, “I Still Have Faith In You”. 

And I was in tears. Torrents of hot, silent tears, streaming down my face, some of them getting caught in the fabric of my face mask, some of them getting through even that. Nose dripping in there too for good measure. Glasses steaming up. (Many a time have I blessed face masks for concealing crying in public. This was one of those times).

I’ve listened to the song, with or without the video, a few times since then, and each time it’s the same. Hot tears flood down my face. So much can be caught up in a song.  So much emotion, so much grief, whether in the lyrics or in the lines of music.

The lyrics of the song are about the questioning of whether or not the magic of the band is still there. But what I hear is simply a love song. An ode to a loving, long-lasting relationship. Whether the loved one is still alive. Or not.

“There was a union//Of heart and mind//The likes of which are rare and oh-//So hard to find//The joy and the sorrow//We have a story//And it survived”

I also hear an anthem to Grieflings, a call for the courage, strength and resilience required to just keep on keeping on. When we wonder if we might be able to. “Do I have it in me?” (Though I realise that their question is for another context).

And we need one another//Like fighters in a ring//We’re in this together//Passion and courage//Is everything”

I don’t doubt that part of my crying was about the passing of time. I am sure it is for ABBA too. It is literally more than four decades that I have genuinely loved ABBA’s music.

And of course, my crying was about Mike. And Julia. Neither of whom are here to share the song with. In our family, you couldn’t help but be exposed to ABBA. I’d play up-beat songs for cooking and dancing. I behave like a carefree teenager when “Dancing Queen” or “Does Your Mother Know?” are playing.

Other ABBA songs, or parts of songs, have taken on greater significance over the years. Another two that make me weep are “The Winner Takes It All” (yes – I know it’s about the end of a relationship, but what is death, if not the end of a relationship?). And most poignantly, even while all three kids were alive, “Slipping Through My Fingers”, caused anticipatory grief in me. It’s such a hard hard song to listen to if you have kids. And perhaps especially if you no longer have all the kids that you had.

“The feeling that I am losing her forever//And without really entering her world//…//That funny little girl

Empty Nesting can be hard enough for people.

Widowing Empty Nests is unfathomably hard.

Widowing Empty Nests without my one girl who should still be going off to school each morning….well, I have no words.

“School bag in hand//Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile”

1 September 2015. First day back to school, just after our return from volunteering in Laos. In just a year, her life would split apart at the seams as we’d learn of Mike’s illness and prognosis.

No words.

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The Songs
I Still Have Faith In You

The Winner Takes It All

Slipping Through My Fingers

About Emma Pearson

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