Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? - Mary Oliver
I needed something else to think about.
It was as complicated and as simple as that.
I had always been a fan. In fact there was a period of time when Hours was on constant play in my home. But in June of 2014, after I was diagnosed at 37 with cancer I needed something else to think about.
That something became David Bowie.
I listened to him and only him constantly. I analyzed his lyrics. I filled in the gaps of my record collection. For a period of time the only thing that stopped me from worrying about a premature death was David Bowie.
I had three surgeries that summer. I wore my David Bowie t-shirt to all of them. It sounds stupid but I needed him. I needed a little bit of stardust and magic.
He was the only one, even now, that has truly and completely transcended the chasm that my diagnosis ripped through my life. Every other musician feels….tainted. I can’t listen to their music because it belongs to that other life. In the same way that when I look at photos of myself right before diagnosis, I think “that girl, right there, has cancer and doesn’t know it yet.”
Bruce. Bob. Ryan. Everything felt like it was tethered to a life I was, in a very real way, no longer living. Except Bowie. Bowie, like the starman he was, found a way to bridge the gap, to pull me over, to help to slowly stitch up that rip.
(Coincidentally my husband experienced the same thing with music and also found someone to carry into this new strange life. His was Neil Young.)
I am in no way exaggerating when I say that David Bowie’s music saved my life.
And now here we are. And David Bowie has died.
It seemed impossible, even as my husband, as gently as he could broke the news to me.
I spent close to an hour in a state of absolute shock and then, when that finally wore off, crying.
I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art because I thought that maybe I could fill this star-sized hole inside of me.
David Bowie died.
How was that even possible?
He lived for 18 months with terminal liver cancer. He kept it a secret.
He would have been diagnosed around the same time as me. Spring/Summer 2014.
For awhile I kept my cancer a secret too.
In the last year of his life, he worked, just like he did in all the other years. Because the work mattered. Because he crafted a giant net in which all us freaks could be together. Could find each other. Could love.
There was a piece in the New York Times last weekend about how you should live every year like it’s your last. This is unabashedly how I try to live. Even before the diagnosis. I recognized how incredibly unlikely it is that we should even exist. Every single one of us is a product of everything going exactly right. Miraculously right. The fact that the right sperm and egg got together. The fact that your parents even met. That their parents before them met. Every perfect necessary moment stretching back through all of time.The slim chance that we all somehow managed to survive.
To be here. Now.
To have been lucky enough to have lived in the world at the same time as an artist like David Bowie. To be inspired. Delighted. Moved and, yes, saved.
So thank you, David Bowie. From the deepest bottom of my very broken heart.
Remember friends, you only have so much time. Don’t waste it.