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It happened to Brenda VanHorn. After her son, a drummer, died, she sought solace and fellowship at Springsteen concerts. In Charlotte, N.C., in 2002, she and another son stood, awash in grief, during the song “You’re Missing.”

“As the last few notes of the song were playing, I looked up to see tears streaming down Clarence Clemons‘ face as well,” she recounted in “For You,” a book of fan recollections by Lawrence Kirsch. “…My first reaction was that this must be a really sad song if he hears it all the time and it still made him cry.”

“Then I realized it wasn’t the song, it was us _ a boy grieving for his brother, a mother grieving for her son _ that caused those tears. … The Big Man, someone we have cheered and applauded for years, not only felt our pain but in some small way did his part to ease it.”

After learning of Clemons‘ passing, VanHorn again reflected on that night.

“Tears were streaming down my face when Clarence looked at me and shook his head no. Then he gave me his famous blessing and more famous smile,” VanHorn said, responding to a question sent through Facebook private message. “It was as if he was telling me _ enough! No more sorrow, be happy for the joy (her son) brought to us.”

“I feel like that tonight,” said VanHorn. “I am sad and I shed tears but I feel so blessed to have been able to enjoy his music all these years. He truly was the biggest man you ever saw.”

Fans always knew, of course, that Clemons would one day be with them only in spirit. But they’re still reeling from the hard, cold reality that the Big Man had run out of miracles. He just seemed so damned invincible.

As the music lives on, so will the indelible images: Scooter and the Big Man dancing with abandon on top of the stage speakers, and sealing their lifelong bromance with a kiss; Clemons tearing up as band members stood side-by-side, holding hands, during a Madison Square Garden performance of “Blood Brothers” that included the late keyboardist Danny Federici.

After Clemons was stricken, his family and Springsteen set up an email address where people could send get-well wishes.

“Dear Clarence,” went mine. “I once said you reminded me of that bunny on the TV commercial _ pounding his drum while he just keeps going, and going, and going. You laughed heartily and replied, `I AM the bunny, baby!’ Yes, you are _ and thank God for it.

” I hope you’re aware of the deluge of prayers, music, fond reminiscences and messages of hope being posted on the Internet by your fans all over the world _ forming one giant wave of love.

“Along with my husband, Mike (you once pointed to him from the stage and said, `I like this guy!’), I wish you and your family health, strength and joy as you continue to reach mightily for the top of yet another new mountain.

“We can’t wait to see the Big Man back in action, lighting up the world with his music and his smile.”

Maybe his reply can be found in remarks he made onstage in New York in August 2010.

“You know, sometimes in this life, sometimes there are situations that make you sad. Things happen that you don’t understand that make you sad, make you very unhappy and uneasy,” said Clemons.

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