Arthur’s death famously inspired Cave to write the furiously emotional sixteenth Bad Seeds studio albumSkeleton Tree, a record over an 18 months at Retreat Recording Studios in Brighton—Arthur died during the start of these sessions.
While Cave and his family remained silent in their grief, the Bad Seeds frontman did open up for the first time during the 2016 documentary One More Time With Feeling which explored in depth the strain Cave’s family were under during this time.
Now, while being drawn into a conversation about mysterious “signs” as part of his fan-led platform Red Right Hands, a woman explains how she still feels the presence of her late husband. Cave responds by detailing specifically poignant moments that he, his family and his close friends all experienced in the immediate aftermath of Arthur’s death.
“Two days after our son died, Susie and I went to the cliff where he fell,” Cave wrote in response to his fan. “Now, when Arthur was a small child, he always, always, had a thing about ladybird beetles. He loved them. He drew them. He identified with them. He constantly talked about them.”
He added: “As we sat there, a ladybird landed on Susie’s hand. We both saw it, but said nothing, because even though we recognised the sad significance of it, we were not about to belittle the enormity of the tragedy with some sentimental display of magical thinking. But we were new to grief.”
The common and regular appearance of ladybirds only began to grow and, as Cave battled his grief, the insect continued to appear in more circumstances: “We were unaware of grief’s particular appetites. When we returned home, as I was opening the door to our house, another ladybird landed on my hand,” he said.
“Since then Susie and I see ladybirds everywhere. When Warren [Ellis, Bad Seeds] and I were working on the last album a plague of ladybirds came into the studio.
“I don’t know what to make of this phenomenon, but each time I see a ladybird I receive a kind of jolt of recognition that something is at play beyond my comprehension, even though it is, in all probability, just ladybird season.”