It's relatively common knowledge that this song is autobiographical, but I was so surprised to read the account of the "old lover" that he was referring to in the opening line of the song. According to Song Facts:
"After Fogelberg's death from prostate cancer in 2007, the woman who he wrote the song about came forward with her story. Her name is Jill Greulich, and she and Fogelberg dated in high school when she was Jill Anderson. As she explained to the Peoria Journal Star in a December 22, 2007 article, they were part of the Woodruff High School class of 1969, but went to different colleges. After college, Jill got married and moved to Chicago, and Dan went to Colorado to pursue music. On Christmas Eve, they were each back in Peoria with their families when Jill went out for egg nog and Dan was dispatched to find whipping cream for Irish coffee. The only place open was a convenience store at the top of Abington Hill, at Frye Avenue and Prospect Road, and that's where they had their encounter. They bought a six pack of beer and drank it in her car for 2 hours while they talked.
Five years later, Jill heard "Same Old Lang Syne" on the radio while driving to work, but she kept quiet about it, as Fogelberg also refused to reveal her identity. Her main concern was that coming forward would disrupt Fogelberg's marriage.
Looking at the lyrics, Jill says there are 2 inaccuracies: She has green eyes, not blue, and her husband was not an architect - he was a physical education teacher, and it's unlikely Fogelberg knew his profession anyway. Regarding the line, "She would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn't like to lie," Jill won't talk about it, but she had divorced her husband by the time the song was released."
In a time where it's become commonplace to capitalize for personal gain on every opportunity and situation, it was striking to me that Jill chose to keep quiet about her role in such an iconic song. She put her friend's marriage above her own personal interests.
But Jill's story reminded me that it's okay to keep some things close to the heart. That some pieces of ourselves shouldn't be for sale. They aren't commodities to be traded for money, notoriety or the oft coveted fifteen minutes of fame. They're special. They're private. AND they could have a ripple effect in the lives of others that may not be fair to them.
The fact that Jill wouldn't even discuss the line alluding to her relationship with her former husband, showed amazing discretion on her part. Who knows her reason for keeping quiet on this? But I admire the fact that she didn't use this momentary spotlight to justify, explain, or condemn. It was enough to simply not address what was personal to her.
As I read this, immediately I thought of Luke 2:19 "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Maybe some things are best left in our hearts, being pondered by us.
"A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets. But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me...in every way that a person can be saved. I don't even have a picture of him. He exists now....only in my memory." Old Rose from Titanic
Maybe it's good and appropriate for me to tuck some things into my heart and keep them there like a flower pressed in a book to commemorate a sweet memory. Maybe I'm not being a hypocrite or phony if I don't share EVERYTHING, but demur the temptation to be a completely open book. Could there be an amazing beauty in taking some things with us to our graves?