11: Can’t Be Really Gone

11: Can’t Be Really Gone

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Can’t Be Really Gone

Story by Gary Burr

Song written by Gary Burr

Recorded by Tim McGraw

I was reading a newspaper one morning back around 1995. I think it was a local story. It may have been in the Nashville Banner. I read this story about a woman who was making lunch for her daughter and they had just sat down to eat it together. Then a friend of her daughter’s came by play with her, so the mother let her go out to play. This girl and her mom lived close to the highway and apparently the little girl and her friend were playing too close to the highway, and she was killed by a car.

Her mother went out and found her and, of course, then had to do all of those horrible, horrible things that you have to do when someone close to you dies, especially so unexpectedly. She got home late that afternoon. In the article, it said that the mother looked over to see her daughter’s sandwich sitting there still half eaten on the plate, and the first though that went through her mind was, “She can’t be really gone. She still hasn’t finished her lunch.” And that really got to me.

Later, I started to write a song that began with the lines, “Her hat is hanging by the door / the one she bought in Mexico,” and goes on to tell the story of a guy whose girl is gone, but he just can’t believe it. I like the fact that the lyric is still a little ambiguous, so the listener can decide if she is dead or has left him, or is just out for the time being. Anyone who has lost a loved one, or ever suffered through a divorce, knows what it’s like when people leave things behind that remind you of them.

My publisher thought it might be too much of a downer for anyone to record. Then somebody took it to Tim McGraw and played it for him on his bus and he loved it. He recorded it and then put it out as a single. It hit the Top 10 and stayed there for several weeks, and ended up being one of his biggest hits.

It didn’t bother Tim that it was too sad. He didn’t need someone riding off into the sunset with a happy, upbeat ending. He saw it for what it was: a very tragic, but also very powerful and emotional song.

Can’t Be Really Gone

Her hat is hanging by the door

The one she bought in Mexico

It blocked the wind,

It stopped the rain

She’d never leave that one

So, she can’t be really gone

The shoes she bought on Christmas Eve

She laughed and said they called her name

It’s like they’re waiting in the hall

For her to slip them on

So, she can’t be really gone.

I don’t when she’ll come back

She must intend to come back

And I’ve seen the error of my ways

Don’t waste the tears on me.

What more proof do you need?

Just look around the room

So much of her remains.

Her book is lying on the bed

The two of hearts to mark her page

Now, who could ever walk away

At chapter twenty-one?

So, she can’t be really gone.

Just look around this room

So much of her remains.

Her book is lying on the bed

The two of hearts to mark her page

Now, who could ever walk away

With so much left undone?

So, she can’t be really gone.

No, she can’t be really gone.

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