Jim Lauderdale Pens Letter To Robert Hunter, Late Grateful Dead Lyricist

Hunter & Lauderdale

ROBERT HUNTER (1941 – 2019)

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Dear Robert,

The sun is coming up and the light is slowly and softly coming through the hotel windows. It’s still quiet out. For the last two days I’ve been trying to find words and I haven’t been able to – and now more days have passed before I finish.

So I thought I’d speak right to you. I don’t want to say goodbye, and I don’t know if I ever can. So I’m not going to do that now, but I want to tell you some things. And thank you.

You affected me so deeply before we ever met, like you touched, influenced, and inspired so many, many people. Through your words, you drew us together and we experienced a shared knowing. A sense of community, celebration, new possibilities together, and inside ourselves. Getting to know you and work with you was like a dream and I still have a hard time realizing that it happened, and I could never thank you enough.

You changed my life in so many ways. Being near you was incredible. I have always been so in awe of you that I was always shy and a little tongue tied, measuring my words as now. I want to say things right. It took a long time for me to relax more in your presence and not melt in awe as I pretended to be calm. You were so fascinating to be around and I hung on every word. You never ceased to amaze me with your brilliance. Inside of you was a force and spirit that was larger than life and beyond this world. A lion – strong, gentle, humble, fierce, protective of your family, determined, of great character, a genius who never stopped learning and always wanted to learn and discover more.

I am so thankful to you for so many things – and to your wonderful family, for their kindness and grace. To see and feel the home you had with them. I want the world to know how much you loved them, and they loved you. How proud you were of them and they of you. It was always so touching to see that love between you. It was so beautiful to see that love grow even deeper as time went on. There was such an innocent and pure love emanating from you with them. And isn’t that kind of the ultimate? Isn’t that what this life is all about?

You had experienced so much, and there was such a vast knowledge, such an immensity of spirit inside of you. You had seen so much lightning of thought, taking you from the street to the mountains and beyond the beyond, that it was all perhaps more than most physical bodies could handle. You had several close calls since I’ve known you and I think it was the love of the earthly angels of your family and your love for them that brought you back and kept you on this Earth longer. May those of us here lift your family up in their hearts and wish, hope, pray and send from inside comfort to them now and for the rest of time. I know you would want that from us.

These last few years I sensed and saw some changes coming on, and also saw a deeper peace, contentment, and happiness in you. And I think it was the depth of the love you had for your family. It was a sight to behold. The last time I saw you, it was touching and inspiring to see you with your guitar as I walked up and for you to say you were practicing for hours a day, to play as good as you could because you really wanted to go out and tour. Maureen and Kate would be along to help you. You really wanted to play your songs again for people.

Your eyes seemed to change through the years, or maybe it was me just noticing more. They were deeper and it was as if they were absorbing more and more life. In remembering conversations with you, there would be a pause, and in about the beat of an inhalation something wise would come out of you. There was a library stored inside from a photographic memory, thousands of songs you heard on radio, records and shows you could sing and recite, stories and experiences that entered through your eyes, ears and senses.

When I think of those deep eyes, it hit me … You are the eyes of the world. You showed us a glimpse and helped us with the possibility of seeing beyond what we’ve seen. To wake up and find out with our eyes.

You are still and always will be connected to us and we to you. We don’t want to say goodbye. Hopefully time will ease the sense of loss we feel now as we remember, honor, recall, cry, laugh, also celebrate you, your life and your gifts you shared with us. That thread you created will live on past all of us and keep extending to others not here yet. We love you Robert.

Jim Lauderdale is a singer, songwriter and recording artist, and a dear friend and co-writer of Robert Hunter.

Listen to “Patchwork River,” written by Lauderdale & Hunter, below:

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