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  • I still go to open mic, you know. I still go, and your picture is on the wall -- I really hope it never comes down. Whenever I play something you used to sing along to, I look over at the picture and think of you. It's never going to be as good as it would be if you were still here. You left us with a certain grace that only you could pull off; you stuck around as long as you could, to give us one more miracle, and bless us with just enough time to say goodbye.

    "Keep writing," you said. I managed to visit you for a little while to see you one last time, and you told me to "keep writing." You, who would silence entire crowds in sheer awe of your voice and your songs -- in our last conversation together, when you didn't need to say anything at all, you tell me to keep writing?

    I remember that at open mic, you were the first person to compliment my voice, as weak and unpracticed as it was. At the time, music was just music. Open mic was like a little talent show to me; somewhere to show people what cool tricks I had up my sleeve -- a place where I got to listen to people play music and also play a little to get some personal validation... As time went on, you and everyone else there showed me that music could really mean something. Yes, music could be loved and I loved music, but playing and writing music as a way of sharing with the world who you are and what you love? As a form of expression? That stuff was too deep for me -- way too much honesty with the world and myself than I thought I could handle or pull off, ever -- until you showed me how. Those songs that you wrote towards the end, they really touched me. I'd sit there by myself at night, thinking about how much you must've been going through, and listen to them over and over again. Your songs really moved me. They moved all of us.

    From then on, I started trying to do the same; as I learned to put more and more of myself into my songs, started trying to make them really mean something, I started to realize what music really is, and how much it means to me -- in each new song, I'm addressing another facet of who I am, and learning more about myself and learning to connect with the world around me. In each new song, I'm learning to be little more honest with myself and a little more honest with the world.

    "Keep writing," you said. I nodded.
    "Yes, ma'am."
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