This is technically my first Elvis Week. I’ve lived in Memphis for 10 years, but have never been over to Graceland—until this year, when Elvis, Gladys and my beloved late wife got me this gig. (True story—well, sorta. I’ll tell you one of these days).
Forty years after his passing, Elvis Presley remains a cultural icon, impacting lives from beyond the grave. Many books and much social commentary have been written about Elvis. To experience it at Graceland, however, is to experience personal stories.
"What's the importance of the candlelight vigil?" is the question I'm asking today. And, "Where were you when Elvis passed away?"
The answer to the first usually gets the answer, "To pay my respects to Elvis," followed by what event in life was impact by Elvis himself or a story or a song.
As I play at Graceland on this week in August, I’m thinking back on the last few months since I started performing at the Home of Elvis Presley and the people who have impact my life.
At the top of my mind is a gentleman from Australia. Oddly enough, I played an Elvis love song and dedicated it to him and his country. As the set wore on, he finished his meal and then walked away.
I was coming back to the stage when our conversation ensued.
“I was hoping you’d make it back from your break before I had to go” he said, handing me a hand-written note and a commemorative stamp from his native Australia. “Thank you for doing the song for me and dedicating it to Australia, mate.”
We began talking and the conversation turned to Elvis. “Where were you when you heard the news about Elvis’ passing,” I asked?
His answer, from a world away and Down Under, was testament to the impact Elvis had and continues to have on people.
“I was at a small agricultural fair in Australia, when the announcement came on the loud speaker,” he explained. “The entire agriculutral fair came to a standstill as we reflected on the sad news that day in 1977.”
After hearing the news, my new Aussie friend went out and bought a set of gold pens. As we spoke, he opened the case and showed me the pens. On the inside of the box, he wrote, “Elvis Presley passed away today.”
“It’s been 40 years that I’ve planned this trip to Graceland,” he said. “Forty years and now I’m here. It feels great.”
Often when important events that involve losses, we tend to push those memories out of our mind because of the pain.
“Move on,” people will tell you. “You just need to forget about it.”
Granted, it is hard and very difficult to “just move on,” but part of the moving on is remembering and recalling the great times and the impact important people in our lives had on us—whether the impact Elvis had on a teenage boy in Australia who went on to become a professor.
It’s equally as important to do the same in your family, friends and circle of influence.
Keep the flame of memory burning.
Elvis left the building 40 years ago. He never left our hearts.
I’m thankful for a new hero I met at Graceland, a man who hails from Australia and commemorates his memories with a pilgrimage.
How do you keep your memories alive?