There’s a saying in the entertainment industry: the show must go on. According to Wikipedia, it comes from the early 19th century circus business, where it reflected the ideal that regardless of what happened — an injured performer or an escaped animal — the circus never stopped. That expression has become a mantra for our modern society where, similar to its circus roots, it signifies our blind devotion to our work regardless of what’s transpiring with the people and environment around us.

I thought of that saying this week as I read about the death of Dennis Sheehan, the longtime tour manager for the rock band U2. I didn’t know Dennis personally, but a lot of people I love did. In my time in the concert business I got to know many tour managers and the teams of people who, behind the scenes, make the show go on night after night. They’re the invisible stars who, while traveling the roads of the world in tour busses, make possible the magic of the live concert business … as Dennis did so masterfully for 33 years with U2.

This time of year is always a challenge for me. The span between Mother’s Day, my mom’s birthday (July 3), and the anniversary of her death (July 18) always provokes a lot of emotion. I think Tiger Wood’s described it aptly a few weeks ago when, with rare vulnerability, he replied, “It’s just brutal on me,” after being asked about competing around the anniversary of his father’s death. The death of my mom, while being a spark that inspired so much beauty in my life, carries with it the very real pain of the little boy inside who would give anything for one more hug from his mommy. There is so much of my life that my mom will never see. Even now, six years after her passing, I often reach for the phone to share accomplishments or special moments only to remember she’s gone. In many ways I’ve become the man she knew I would, and there’s a sadness in knowing I can’t share that with her.

This year those feelings have been compounded. After the sudden death of Sheryl Sandberg’s husband, David Goldberg, I was asked to write a few articles on returning to work after the death of a loved one. In those sharings, I talked about the importance of connecting with others, of being real and honoring our feelings, the need to grieve, and — above all else — the value of being tender and gentle with ourselves throughout the process of grieving as we step back into the busyness of our daily lives.

It’s true that the show must go on. That’s life — it goes on. But it’s also true that death brings with it an invitation to reexamine our lives. It causes time to slow down a bit as we question the importance of the things we deemed important before the loss: our daily routines, our careers, our possessions, and even our hopes and dreams. Death invites us to open our hearts and experience parts of our lives that we’ve neglected. And, in this way, perhaps the show doesn’t just go on. Instead it pauses and morphs, causing something new to emerge as we move forward; a life that’s a little less show … a version of us that’s more authentic, genuine, and raw.

I was asked recently what I believe the message of death to be. I don’t like to answer questions like that in definitive terms, as though I have all the answers. But I did answer the question for myself with the simple answer connection and love. All around us, everywhere we look, are people experiencing grief. Losing someone close to us is an experience that all of us will go through at one point or another. This makes death a very real point of connection and a way of humanizing our interactions with the people around us. When we connect around the feelings of grief, pain, and sadness we go from being coworkers, employees, and acquaintances to being brothers, sisters, and friends. The result can be a lasting bond of unity and love. I think that’s the true essence of team spirit … people pulling together and being there for each other.

My mom, David Goldberg, Dennis Sheehan, and all of our loved ones who have passed, send a spark of love into the world. Their deaths cause us to stop, to look into our hearts, to allow emotion to surface, and to hold and support each other. This week I invite you to allow that spark into your busy life. Pause, breathe, smile often, love a little more, open your heart wide, and allow life to come pouring in. In the end, the real message of death is found in life itself … through living, loving and making its moments truly matter.

Big hugs of love … and life,


  1. You have touched my heart once again, Jason, as you always do. Having been a big fan of U2 since I was 11, I reaped the benefits of Dennis Sheehan’s birlliance-beginning with the stripped down, no-frills, 4 guys & 2 huge speaker stacks of the Unforgettable Fire Tour in 1985, to the blow-out spectacle that was the 360 tour. The thing that remained is the ability of these 4 men to transport you. Having been equally entertained, regardless the amount of spectacle involvded; it is the love of what they do, & who they are doing WITH that shines through. I am certain that Dennis had his skilled hands involved. Isn’t it a shame that our culture really only allows the time just following someone to really reflect upon the impact they have had on our lives?!? Not having ever met the man, I feel I certain that he played a significant role in making my U2 concert dreams come true! So for that & myriad other ways you likely touched my life without my knowing it, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Dennis-& may you find your way to the next life with smooth & seamless transition. And thank YOU, Jason, for your human/humane way of letting us all into that huge heart of yours!

    Big Hugs of Love & Light!


  2. Linda Strode says:

    Jason for all of us who have lost someone close to us your words echo our feelings….there really is nothing more to say for they would just be empty words. “In the end, the real message of death is found in life itself”….may we all live our lives as a reflection of those who have passed before us with love and dignity. Thanks for your seeds of knowledge may they take root and grow.

  3. There are always things that happen in life that make us stop, look around and really see what it is that we’re doing, forcing us to evaluate if this is truly what we want from life. Death, illness, injury, even a near accident, are all things that make us pause and take stock of what we are doing. It makes us realize that time is precious, and so are the people around us that we share it with. So while the show must go on, for we cannot stop time itself, we change and grow from these experiences, and hopefully learn to cherish what it is we do have.

    Enjoy your week, cherish the time with your family. As I look around myself, my kids are growing up way too fast! They have a tendency to do that though…so I will cherish the time I have with them.

    Much love and big hugs to you.

    Faith, hope and love, Kathleen.

  4. And the show DOES go on… you, in me, in everyone. This post resonated with me Jason. My mum passed away 11 years ago, and like you, I go to tell her the amazing things I’ve seen or done that I would’ve shared with her had she still been in her body.
    That has been especially true over the last 3 years as HER grandchildren have had children. There have been many times that I wish she could see the antics of her 16 month old great grandson, the the first tentative steps of her 12 month old great grandson or listen to the wonderful stories her 3 year old great granddaughter tells. But you know what? She does hear and see ALL that is happening in my life because of the bonds that connect us. She lives on in her family.
    Big hugs. Thanks for sharing.
    Ann xo

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