I wrote Not Dead Yet in spring 2013 during an especially dark period in a difficult stretch of time, when I suddenly saw the beacon rays of hope. As I wrote more and more stanzas I felt torrents of defiant optimism coursing through me.
I let it sit a while and then reorganized stanzas and worked on turning it into a song. Somehow we ended up with two songs. Both versions were performed at my raucous 57th birthday party in July 2014. Son Max turned it into a ballad. Friend Mike Guerreri arranged it as an upbeat anthem which his band, Long Time Coming, has since played at many gigs.
Then I finalized the poem version and posted it in November 2013.
Along the way I somehow decided to drop two stanzas. I went looking for the first one below after hearing Natasha and Max sing for me last weekend when both were home. All three kids were blessed with their mother’s voice and they sound beautiful together.
The second stanza feels poignant for me, having just passed three years from my definitive diagnosis.
Fortunately I saved old drafts and so here they are, the two lost stanzas, two years later. They would fit at the end of section 2 of the poem, or elsewhere. Click the link to the original, and you decide.
When I hear you sing your solos
And harmonious duet
The song could last forever,
‘cause I’m not dead yet.
I learned the most important thing
With my disease onset
No one lives forever,
But I’m not dead yet.
Yes! We’re not dead yet.
Thank you, Michael! (Jan Heyneman)
Now that’s what I’m talking about!
National Lampoon had an ongoing thing with Mamie Eisenhower waving out of a window: “I’m not dead yet!” I get pissed at people when they respond to “Good Morning!” with “What’s so good about it?” I feel like slugging them but instead hit them with “You’re not dead yet!!” The finality of death can focus our attention on good things, or make trivial that which is. Annoyed with a feud between my mother and her cousin, I said “You’re all going to be dead soon, so why don’t you get over it?” I guess I’m not the Pollyanna people think I am. Or did she say it once in a while too?