I’m sure I’m not the only one who woke up Monday morning to the news of David Bowie’s passing. Like many in the world, I didn’t know he was sick, as he had not made many public appearances over the last several years. Or if he did, it barely made a blip on the entertainment radar which is overrun with Kardashian/Miley Cyrus/no talent nonsense. So when the illness and passing of a true gentleman and artist was announced, it collectively blindsided the world, leaving many confused with a sudden hole in their existence many didn’t anticipate being possible. Many headlines read “Planet Earth is Blue,” a line from Bowie’s first hit, Space Oddity. It perfectly summed up how we felt. There’s nothing we can do but mourn his passing and celebrate his life. And we truly have to celebrate it. Bowie knew he was dying, and he chose to go on his own terms, even releasing a new album and music video for his fans. Looking back now, the signs were there and perhaps we knew. The difference is we, as a society, rarely see the signs anymore unless they’re wrapped up in scandal. It truly is a sad reflection of humans these days.
I come to write this blog this morning after taking a self-imposed hiatus, in a manner of speaking. It’s been nearly 7 months since my last blog. To put it mildly, the last 7 months have not been kind. To quote another Brit, Queen Elizabeth II, in her 1992 speech to mark the 40th anniversary of her Accession, 2015 “has turned out to be ‘Annus Horribilis’”. And it truly has indeed. I had high hopes for 2015. I started last year with a lot of motivation and inspiration. I started the first few months strong with completing about 30,000 words on the Scottish novel, and then working hard in April with another 22k word short story as I tried my hand at erotica. I had a couple of setbacks on a personal front, with my shitty job and our vehicle not only being broken into and all electronics stolen in April, but then the tailgate was stolen a few months later. It’s those little setbacks that steals the concentration from your art and makes you paranoid about everything. But we recovered and our insurance company came through. Items were replaced. After all, in the end that’s all they are. Just items.
Then June came along and the horribilis continued. I started June with a new story idea. Yes, it’s set in Scotland again. And yes, I have ideas all the time. But what made this one special is that it was finally a contemporary romance idea. Truly a first. I don’t like contemporary. My life has always been about history. I rarely read contemporary. Find me a good, well written history or fantasy and I’m entrenched for days. Outside of the erotica short, every time I come up with a contemporary idea (and there aren’t many), my mind goes into screenplay mode. Which is why I’ve only written one screenplay. To me, I can imagine contemporary on a screen, whereas historicals have such an epic depth that they can only be written in novel format and in no less than 150k words (if I manage to contain it in less than 150k – not so much the case.) So needless to say, I was excited on June 1st when this idea hit me and I sat down to write the outline and set myself a goal of 90k and a 3-4 month timeline. It was going to be a nice break from the slump I had found myself in with the historical writing. I was jazzed and ready to go and my muse was having a field day in her new playground. All was set to be a great summer.
I may have said this before, if you ever want to make God laugh, tell him what your plans are.
My father was first diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. First it was throat cancer, then a few misdiagnoses with lung and bone cancer. Finally it was about a year/year and a half ago that he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Just like all the other cancers he had, he fought and won. I kinda thought it would be the case with this one. So at the early part of June when he called all his kids and told us he wanted to see all of us we kind of had the feeling this wasn’t good. He declared he was going to stop treatment and if he was lucky he had 6 months to live. To our surprise, he called us 3 days later and said the doctor was giving him 2 weeks, if he was lucky.
I’ve never been close with my father. Those close to me know I’ve never hidden that fact. The man who raised me was my step dad and he died of bile duct cancer nearly 15 years ago. I considered losing him the loss of a parent, so when my father tells us he has a matter of days left, it left a numbness I wasn’t quite familiar with. A lot of thoughts went through my mind, not all good. But, I did what any dutiful daughter could do and I was there. I stayed in his hospital room the last 3 days of his life and prayed for him and watch him pass from this world, hoping he will find a good existence in his next one. I’m a reincarnationist, I believe that we are born again in new bodies and this is the life eternal that God promised us. So the only gift I could give him in the end was the hope that he finds a good life wherever he goes next.
I wish I could say this is the only death my family and loved ones experienced this year. Every month after my father, it was someone different. A friend in England passed away unexpectantly, again from cancer, the following month. My father’s cousin, who was a pall bearer at his funeral, died of a heart attack in October. My best friend’s grandfather, the next month, and then, the day after Christmas, my sister-in-law’s mother died in a car accident. There are more deaths, but those are the ones that had the most impact. I’ve begun every month since July praying please, don’t let anyone else die. I know we all have to go sometime, that’s a lesson I learned well when my oldest brother died when I was 15, but I feel there needs to be a break in between. And granted, I know life isn’t fair and wanting something on this level is not within my control. But the muse is feeling this all too keenly and so she’s been in hiding for a while.
I ended the year on a very quiet note. I stayed home, dared not venture out and held a calendar burning ceremony in my back yard. My husband and I sat around our fire pit, toasted the New Year with White Russians, watched the neighbors set off fireworks, and at midnight burned every calendar we owned for 2015. We wanted to lift the curse, if that’s what it was, and start 2016 a little better. Maybe it’s superstition, maybe fanciful thinking, but all I knew is that it couldn’t hurt. Bad mojo be gone and bring on brighter, better days for the new year. Amen.
However, Monday came and I had to think on all that had happened in 2015. As I said before, Bowie’s death was a shock. He was someone I had grown up with and I didn’t know how to process a world which no longer had Bowie. But as soon as I read cancer, I wanted to cry. More news came out, and then the video which he made as a final gift to fans surfaced and I realized I’m not as nearly ready to deal with death by cancer as I thought I had. I turned the video on for 30 seconds, saw Bowie in a hospital bed, obviously sick with the blindfold over his eyes and I started having flashbacks to those 3 days I stayed by my father’s hospital bed watching him die. Bowie has never been subtle and every action he ever made had a reason. I don’t think the video was meant to be a nice, cheery sendoff. And perhaps one day I’ll bring myself to watch it completely to discover more meaning and symbolism, but I can’t for now.
Much like the unexpected death of Robin Williams a year and a half ago, Bowie’s death actually brought the world together to remember everything he was as a human and his truly remarkable and generous spirit. No one can say anything bad about him. Everyone agrees he was the nicest man you could have met, gentleman to the core, always up for a laugh, an artist who was always willing to take a chance. That’s a good legacy. One that many of us would be lucky to leave behind.
I’m not quite sure how to end it today, other than I hope everyone has a good 2016. Work on your creativity every day. It’s the only connection to sanity we have.