Certainty is the cage that keeps us safe from curiosity. I've been released from the cage. I am the songbird and I am flying for the window. I know it's closed but I plan on breaking through. – Charlie Coté, Jr. (1987-2005)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Singing Out: The Revel in Revelation

Having just read Alan Shapiro's elegies for his brother David 
who died from brain cancer (Song & Dance, Mariner Books, 2004), 
I feel compelled to let my son sing out as well. 
Alan's brother was an actor on Broadway, and had a great 
sense of humor, even in the midst of in his own tragedy. 
He "sang out in the revels" as Alan points out in 
"Last Impressions," the last poem in the collection, 
and by that singing, celebrated his life, our life, 
revealing, as all poems do, the essentials of existence.
Look for my upcoming review of Shapiro's book. 
From my son's journal, found soon after he died 
from Melanoma at age 18. While not comedic, 
these sing out their own revelations. 

October 1st, 2005 (The day he died)
What you are is a miracle that has graced my heart for what reason I don't know. The way you live is a lyrical work of art and I can't look away.
November 30, 2004
It’s like blowing in the wind,
the leaves in the fall.
Can’t stop me if I drift,
blending into it all.
But let’s face it, we’re all dying a little bit everyday ‘till we end up back where we
belong. Let’s all dance into our graves.
Certainty is the cage that keeps us safe
from curiosity. I’ve been released 
from the cage. I am the songbird
and I am flying for the window.
I know it’s closed, but I plan on
breaking through.
It’s funny how we call survival a blessing when death would be so much greater.
I’m still waiting for the answers to come falling at my feet. I’ll pick them up and look
them over but all I’m going to see is that no one knows the answers.
April 28, 2005 “Brown and Blue Eyes”
Brown eyes, if you’re listening in there,
I’m sure you’re aware 
that time Is on your side,
but not if you throw it away with regret. 
Blue eyes, if I choose to compare,
you’ll notice I stare. 
You’re everything I needed. Just pull me through.Just pull me through. I promise that I’ll beat it.
Here's Charlie singing Brown Eyes:

September 16, 2004 “Wings”
I want to be the passenger.
Let someone else drive
because I’ve got enough to do.
So girlfriend’s got her wings.
There are better things than
falling in love,
like being loved
and loving someone.
There are better things
than having control:
living out your soul.
Find that someone.
It’s such a difficult burden to carry, but it is also a motivating one. While cancer usually associates with a looming of death, it also provokes a will to live. I am always encouraged by my parents and girlfriend, who have been my greatest supporters since my diagnosis, to fight even when I am exhausted from treatments because I am loved.
March 3, 2004 “Death Cab”
Relying on uncertainties, ignoring
statistics. Using just my fingertips
to measure all the distance
between now and when its over.
Revised April 2, 2004 “Look Up”
Look up, it just might surprise you
I think we’ve found your cure.
Don’t know where we’re going-
doesn’t matter,
Why do we need to be so sure?

Where we’re going- it’s a better place
But I can’t say for sure.
Either way, don’t we know it’s for the
better? And there’s no need to
feel so insecure.

The cure is the disease
that brings everyone around you

caring for what they don’t understand,
helping with the load that’s just too heavy
to carry alone.

It’s like a coffin.
We’re all on a handle.
The second it drops is the one
we all fall down.

Don’t cry now.
Don’t cry ever.
Dehydration is far too clever,
empties your eyes and leaves you tired...
Whenever people level with me and say how hard it must be for me to endure these harsh treatments, and that they admire my spirit and strength, I usually want to reply that these treatments are hardly brutal and are all worthwhile if they mean
that I get to spend more time on earth with all the people I love and who have shown so much caring love throughout my life and this treatment. It is almost
impossible for me to refrain from tears every time I think about the incredible
amount of love people have shown me. And if this experience has shown me anything, I think it’s shown me that God encourages us all to love in so many ways, even in tragedy. It’s incredible how many people I don’t even know have
shown me love and kept me in their prayers. Also, as tacky as it sounds, I think that if people could give everyone the love that I have received so gracefully, then the world would be such a better place to live in.
I think, normally, when someone knows that they’re going to die, that the typical thing for everyone else to do is prepare themfor death. I think, in my case, and hopefully any other faithful person’s, that it’s much more appropriate to prepare the others who must deal with the person’s death. I’ll try to leave you with everything
you need. I’ll be taken care of when I get where I’m going.
 JOURNAL ENTRY 9/24/2005

So I was thinking today, after hearing
about Julie Lynch’s sort of self-realization-
coming to terms with life experience, that
I’m not sure what conclusions I’ve come to
about life. I know I’ve learned a lot of
valuable lessons and such over the past year,
but I don’t feel so wise as the people you read
about or hear about that come to complete
terms with life and death and find profound
understanding. I think what I’ve ultimately
found is that there isn’t much that can be
understood-especially when it comes to what
I’m experiencing now. Maybe that means that
all those other guys were just making stuff up
to sound or feel profound, themselves. Cuz I
have to admit, I think I’d feel a little more
complete, myself, if I could bring myself and
those around me to a new level of
understanding- one that would ultimately allow
us to better cope with all this. Maybe I feel
obligated even...
JOURNAL ENTRY 9/27/2005   
* * * last entry
I don’t like feeling pain. I hate showing
my pain even more, though. I don’t like
having people worry about every ache, pain,
or cough I feel. Sure, I am grateful for their
concern, because every once in a while, I do
need help. I just feel like my state of health
affects others states of emotion or happiness.
I wish I could ignore the pain so they wouldn’t
have to see it and worry so much.

Okay, I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.

Cancer, by Brian Moore
(spray insulation and oil on panel, 2005, for Charlie)

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