One Last Night
The evening of August fifteenth, nineteen
seventy-seven, was like most summer nights, in the south,
moist and hot. The kind of night when a single inhaled breath
possessed a soft, damp feeling, both pleasant and
uncomfortable. I imagine it to have been a night of
opposition. While excitement brewed in the heavens, grief
lingered, mixing in the breeze. Come morning, a storm of tears
would blow across the earth.
Elvis Presley spent his last night, unaware of his
destiny. Instead, he played a late-night game of racquetball,
enjoying some private time with family. A lot has been
reported about the events of that fateful night. Some would
say, Elvis was light-hearted, excited. Not only about his
up-and-coming tour but his recent engagement to Ginger Alden
as well. While others say, he was ready for a change, both in
management and his life, planning a much needed rest after
this tour. Still some, unbelievably, try to convince us that
on his last night on earth, with his adored daughter sleeping
just a few doors down, a man, who both loved and feared God,
took his own life. No matter what you believe, I ask you to
forget about the controversy that follows this night. Forget
about the rumours and often heartless words that try to chip
away at his memory. Instead, let’s take a journey together.
Let’s spend this last night with him, the man we love, no
matter the circumstances above. Will you join me?
is especially peaceful at night. Not even the hum of
civilization can be heard from up on this hill. Standing in
Meditation Gardens, we watch as streams of water burst into
the air, lifting our hearts, before cascading back into a
fountain before us. The garden is not a cemetery, on this
night, friend. Rather it’s a place of prayer and the statue of
Jesus reminds us he is there. We look up to the wonder of a
clear southern sky. Like a black canvas, painted in bursts of
light. We are moved by what only The Almighty could create.
Smiling to each other, we understand the peace we both feel in
this special place.
hilarity captures our attention from just around the bend. Can
you hear it? We have heard this heartfelt laughter before. It
calls to us and we follow its beckoning. Together we stroll,
careful not to stay onto the freshly cut grass, towards the
source of this joyous resonance. A soft light illuminates our
way as we approach the large white building, just around the
bend. Rising Sun, Elvis’ palomino, enjoys a late-night snack
from the lush pastures of Graceland. He briefly pauses and
seems to consider us. We stop to admire his long white mane,
shining against the night, before continuing to the
racquetball centre. We feel welcomed here and Elvis is
entering, the sound of rubber soled shoes, gripping the floor,
greets us. The smell of musk and leather prickles our noses.
Elvis is here and this is where we want to be.
Stalled at the top of
the stairs, we are momentarily awed as we take in our new
about, inside a playing court, separated by glass, are two
grown men acting as if they were merely children. They pause
in their play. Panting heavily; they turn to consider the new
arrivals. Elvis, dressed in a dark jogging suite, encourages
us to sit down with a simple wave of his hand.
An easy smile spreads across his Angelic face.
on in, watch your step.
descend into the room, soaking it all in. A stand up piano,
against the wall, captures our attention. Like kids in a candy
store, our eyes begin to glow. A song is imminent. For now,
however, a heated game of racquetball ball is taking place
between two family members, with a history of cousin-rivalry.
Keeping our eyes on the game, we slide on to the brown,
seventies style, leather couches, set up for visitors to watch
the show. Shifting eagerly, we glance at each other and give
out a light chuckle. Not as comfortable as we imagined? Do we
care? Not a bit.
movement inside the court, we soon realise the game has taken
a turn. A game with rules and boundaries has quickly become a
game of war. Each man appears eager to slam a tinny rubber
ball against the other. Elvis makes every effort to ricochet
this blue object off his cousin’s small frame. Laughing and
cursing flow freely from inside the playroom. We join in, both
amused and entertained. Soon, we see hands raised high in the
air, a white flag of surrender.
exits the game room a champion. With his chest out and a broad
smile across his face, he approaches us. We hold our breath
and savour the sight, as he leans over to make our
acquaintance. Small beads of sweat appear on a face that is
perfect, even for Heavens standards. Can he offer us a drink,
he asks, and turns, hoisting his pants like the King of the
castle. Neither of us speaks as he fetches himself a bottle of
Did we have a
look around his beautiful Graceland?
then we could ever have imagined, we admit openly.
Seemingly happy with our response, his smile beams. We
can’t help but study him. Heavier than normal, he carries
himself as gracefully as he ever did. This added weight does
not dishearten us. He is as beautiful as ever.
in hand and a towel now draped around his neck, Elvis crosses
the room. Our collective hearts skip a beat as the piano
becomes his desired resting-place. Pulling out the stool, he
takes a seat. Placing his drink within reach, he gives his
attention to the ivory keys before him. The room goes silent
as he familiarizes himself with the instrument. He finesses
the keys in a moment of reintroduction. A shy smile conveys
his amusement and or bashfulness over this fumbling. He plays
the piano wonderfully but he’s too humble to ever admit it. We
adore his modesty.
Do we have a
million songs pass through our thoughts; “How Great Thou Art”,
“Unchained Melody”, just to name a few. However on this night,
a song has already been predestined.
he wishes to play, we will love.
he begins to plunk out chopsticks, clanking, for our
amusement. He laughs, wholeheartedly, at his own joke and
admits he’s only foolin’ around.
Dear Lord above, we love him.
Turning, he begins to play a song of his choice. The
music is rich and it fills up the room, overwhelming our ears
with its greatness. He plays with ease and his slim fingers
float over the keys, as if of their own will. Our hearts sore
and just when we think it can’t be any more wonderful, he
opens his mouth to sing.
Like a voice from paradise, “Blue Eye’s Crying In The
Rain”, lifts our soul to new heights. His rich tenor speaks of
a love, lost on earth, only to be reunited in heaven.
We feel his words,
more than he can ever know. Glancing our way, he smiles;
pleased we are happy with his tune of choice.
love it. You have the voice of an angel, we exclaim.
is to be the last song Elvis will ever sing. I’m glad we were
night is getting late and he starts a big tour tomorrow. He
needs his sleep. Sadly, we know sleep won’t come for him on
this night, of all nights. He will struggle with slumber
tonight, as he does most nights, lying awake, wishing rest
would finally come.
aware our time is ending, we reluctantly follow him out.
Trailing behind him
now, a profound sadness lingers. How we missed it before, we
cannot say. He turns to say his goodbyes and his eyes, once
bright and playful, appear uneasy. Only the sound of a cricket
can be heard over our combined heartbeats. Unspoken words seem
to hang in the air, pleading for us to speak them.
love you, you know? We whisper into the night.
A shy smile spreads across his face.
love you to. He
says, his voice cracking with emotion and his eyes averting to
I fear, you may
soon change your mind.
we tell him, nobody can change how we feel. No person, no
cruel media and no written words to paper can ever change our
devotion. A momentary look of surprise flickers across his
face. He must wonder how we know what troubles him but we did
not speak of it.
the difference between the image and the man, we tell him.
his eyes soften and his arms open wide.
We rush to hug our final goodbyes.
back and see me, I
will be here, he tells us.
runs down our cheek, but it is not of our own.
Elvis is crying.
will be back and we will bring many more with us.
Thousands to be exact but that is another story, meant for
ole love-in? We’ll give the Beatles a run for their money,
Our laughter spills out into the night, softening this
moment of sadness. We
hold back the need to tell him, he will soon surpass all
artists, becoming the “Artist of the Century”.
should walk y’all to your car, he suddenly mentions,
concerned for our safety. We will be careful, we assure him
and we pull away from his side.
There will be no late-night vigil at his bedside
tonight. No insistent, admission to the nearest hospital. It
is simply time to go.
Graceland’s drive, we hold each other’s hand, keeping the
other from racing back. We cannot change destiny. Only now,
away from his presence, can we shed our grief.
The tears flow freely
Glancing back to Elvis, now only a shadowy figure in the
night, we watch as he keeps an eye on our departure. He gives
us an easy wave and our bodies begin to shake with the emotion
we have been holding at bay. Wrapping our arms around each
other, we know it will take the strength of both of us, every
fan, to help us leave. We cannot go back my friend. Remember,
this was only for one night.
the gates of Graceland, we turn, praying for one last look. As
the big iron gates close, we grip the bars, eagerly looking
for Elvis but he is gone. The house is dark and fate still
beckons. Our bodies, weak with grief, crumble to the ground. I
hold you and you hold me. We are all we have now friend.
Together we scream out into the night.
no... We cry!
God... We beg!
Don’t take a
man who has touched so many, when I have touched so few!
Take us all!
don’t take this earthly King!