I am lost in a strange land between life and death.
My body rebels.
My mind resists.
I know the destination.
It is unavoidable.
The question I confront is how will I get there and when.
Most people don’t even recognize that this land exists.
But some admire me just for being here.
I am a pioneer.
I can’t use my hands or legs and I can’t talk or eat or breathe without a ventilator.
But I will find my way in the end.
To be comfortable.
To relate closely with loved ones, family and close friends.
To be happy.
To cause happiness.
To interact with interesting people.
To be an example of how one can behave in adversity.
To help clients and colleagues.
To say. Thank you, I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, I forgive you, and goodbye.”
I love you all
As well as I can
My heart’s very able
But I’m only a man.
Life is good even when it’s bad.
Beauty contains little bits of
Love still warms after it grows cold.
Peace arises out of mortal combat.
Truth implies that there’s a lie.
Cold rain drops from gray
that was sunny warm before.
Echos of family reverberate
from now empty rooms.
Fourteen feasted on love (the secret sauce),
and filled four cans with refuse.
great gulps of guests mornings
and expiring them evenings,
this house resumes its normal
rhythm of breathing people
in and out
One by one.
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.