I originally wrote the story of Marlene Clay and Jon Bon Jovi HERE.
Recently, I had coffee with Marlene and asked if she’d write her story for the Foundation’s blog where I work. I shared the portion of the story that pertains to the Foundation and asked if Marlene would be willing to share the whole story here. I am delighted she agreed. Thank you Marlene for sharing your light and beauty here.
He Will Always have ‘A Piece of My Heart’
by Marlene Clay
It’s February 25, 2014 and he looks relaxed in his orange t-shirt and faded blue jeans…maybe because 2 months ago he just finished a 10 month tour that took him to 25 countries and 93 cities.
He says his wife wanted him out of the house so he came to Las Vegas to play a private, acoustic Storyteller show for 300 of his biggest fans, the Runaways.
This is my fourth Runaways trip.
He starts the show with the song Every Word Was A Piece Of My Heart from his 1997 solo album Destination Anywhere, a rarely played song live.
His name is Jon Bon Jovi and he’s been my idol for 22 years.
This time there is an opportunity to interact and ask questions of the man behind the music.
This is a special night for me as I have been planning my moment with him for weeks; the book and what I will say. Now I eagerly anticipate my turn to speak. I wait with angst as the Runaways crew member who has the microphone is ignoring my request to give him the book. My friend confronts the crew member about his harsh behaviour and he finally relents and gives me the microphone. I introduce myself and thank him on behalf of all Calgarians for his generous donation to the Calgary Homeless Foundation. I walk up to the stage and give him the Flood of 2013 book with a written message from Louise Gallagher on behalf of CHF.
He takes the time to glance at the book while I stand in front of the stage..he says he will read it and reaches out his hand for mine.
As he gives me the killer smile that melts many women’s hearts, I clasp his hand firmly in mine.
I think I have just transcended further in my journey with grief as the joy of that moment has ignited a divine spark for living.
My passion for Jon Bon Jovi begins in December of 1991 but the real story of my grief therapy starts in February 2013.
I was in the 4th row in the pit at the Toronto Bon Jovi concert on February 18, 2013….my husband of 31 years, Leigh Everett James Clay, died suddenly on September 22, 2012 after a long battle with diabetes and kidney failure. Five months later I was just emerging from the most intense soul pain I have ever experienced.
The tears of joy and pain flowed easily in that 5 minutes before he came on stage. During the next 9 months, I went to 14 more Bon Jovi concerts in 4 countries…I travelled with special friends and made new ones… who share the same passion…
My favourite show of the tour was in my birthplace…
Dublin, Ireland at Slane Castle with 70,000 people…a 3 hour show…5 songs in the encore and fireworks to end an amazing night!!
As I travelled the world to see Bon Jovi, I could feel the joy slowly returning to my life during those months.
Then the most amazing thing happened..it was in Vancouver in October 2013.
There were 8 of us ‘Jovi girls’ staying at the hotel in Vancouver…I had no idea what was about to happen 2 days later.
Of course we had purposely planned to stay at that hotel in the hopes we might catch a glimpse of him.
We did, several times.
The first was shortly after we arrived and he was on his way to sound check; the second time was the next day as we were in the lobby lounge and he was looking at an old vintage car outside the hotel…the third time was later that evening and I was in the hotel lobby alone… he was on his way out to dinner with the other band members…the smile just for me as I shook his hand…the fourth time was the next day and I saw him return from his daily run…and the fifth time was several hours later….I was sitting alone on the bench in the lobby of the hotel..I saw him coming down the hall and I knew this was my moment…I got up and slowly approached..I said ‘can I tell you something’? He nodded and stopped…I said ‘I just want to thank you..you’ve made a difference in my life in the last year..I lost my husband a year ago..I’ve been to a lot of your shows and you’ve made a difference’…he said ‘I’m really sorry babe’…and then he reached out his arms and gave me the biggest hug….
It was a very intimate, sacred moment between us…when it was over the tears came and didn’t stop for hours…that was a time of enormous emotional release for me…when I knew I had transcended my grief…I felt the energy of my husband surrounding me in that Vancouver hotel lobby…my grief counsellor calls this one of the gifts of grief..Leigh’s presence all around me as I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life…what are the chances of randomly seeing your idol 5 times in 3 days and sharing an intimate moment that leaves you breathless.
Uless you have a ‘guardian angel’ making magic happen??
…the next night at the Tacoma concert, he saw me at the circle stage and deliberately gave me his guitar pick…magical again!!
For me, life is about love, laughter and feeding my soul with joy and inspiration
Jon Bon Jovi was my joy and inspiration after a devastating loss…the man who made me feel alive again. He was my ‘grief therapy’ and made a difference in my life in a way that no one else could!