Thanks for the dance.


I’m two years out from my cancer treatment, and so far, so good. I see my oncologist this month for another check up. Fingers crossed. of course.

When I hear of anyone who’s died of cancer, I pause. The closeness of that person to me doesn’t matter as a mix of feelings brew. A sense of dread, of recognition, of guilt, and of sadness mix together. If that person is younger than me, the guilt burns especially strong. Nothing is fair about cancer.

Nothing is fair about death other than it comes to everything.

When we love an artist, we let that person into our lives, into our very inner selves. The images from a certain artist may lift your soul or backdrop a dream. A film may be where you go to lighten your mood after a rough day or be a marker of a childhood. (What would my childhood have been without the Wizard of Oz?) A book gives us worlds and people we latch onto. And music follows us everywhere. Music is time travel. To this day, I can’t listen John Lennon’s Nobody Told Me without being back at my dad’s dining room table struggling to finish a term paper in senior English. It was an insignificant moment. I have no reason to remember it. The song takes me back whether I want to go or not.

I have never been a massive John Lennon fan. I enjoy plenty of his songs, but I never think of him as a soundtrack to my life…except for that Sunday afternoon writing that term paper.

Who plays on the soundtrack of your life?

And do the songs of your teen years matter more than songs from any other time?

As you could guess, David Bowie added to my soundtrack, and his image meant something to me too. His personality in the world spoke to me. (I wrote about David Bowie’s death over in my Obituarist’s Diary.)

Why can we care so much about someone we don’t know?  I read this piece by Sali Hughes about the right to grieve, and she touched on why we grieve when an artist dies.

I was nothing to David Bowie, but he mattered to me. Like a handful of other artists and a few authors, his work existed in my life, in key moments dancing around my dorm room or singing in my car on my way to see someone who mattered to me. Art, song, and story burrow into our minds or our hearts or our souls, and pivotal moments might be remembered differently but for the song playing in the background. If twenty years later a song can grab your attention and send you hurtling to the past, how could the creator of that song not matter?

We fall in love with a song because it captures something about us. At least, I think that’s why. And I mean fall in love with a song. I don’t mean to just like a song or enjoy its beat. Something in those notes understands the moment you are in. Human beings love music. We can’t stop making it or making new ways to hear it.

And if a song pulls you to your feet and makes you spin and move around a room, how could you not love the person who created the song with that power? Have you ever seen a group of girls scream about a song coming over a speaker? They rush onto the dance floor or the skate rink. They are happy.

David Bowie no longer exists in this world. I’m glad he pulled me to my feet and spun me around the room more than once, even though we never met.

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