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The Writing Room: Soundtrack for a Dying Dad, an excerpt from my forthcoming zine


My “Coping with Dad’s Lung Cancer” Soundtrack

While my family lived with my dad’s illness, there were many times that I felt that my self-pity was too much of a burden to share with others. So I created a little mix that I’d play when I felt really low and wanted to keep everything to myself. Each of these songs made me cry for hours at one time or another during my dad’s illness.

1) Day is Done – Nick Drake
Well, Nick Drake always makes me cry, but this one gets to be on this playlist, because it’s all about endings and the dissatisfaction of not behaving the way you’d have liked. There were many times that I felt that way when I’d visit my dad and I’d have big plans to have a meaningful conversation, but they never happened. I don’t think he wanted them, and now I wonder if he was afraid of them. He wanted to pretend he wasn’t sick the whole time, so my role in this was to keep conversations to comfortable areas.

2) Try to Remember – Harry Belafonte
“Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.” It’s not terribly comforting, but it made me feel less bad about feeling so raw.

3) All the Love – Kate Bush
I started listening to this song a lot when I realized that people only visited my dad when he was hospitalized. He was so desperate for company when he was homebound, too, but it wasn’t taken as seriously, because doctors weren’t involved.

4) Sweetness Follows – R E M
I think this song is about making amends before the ones you love die. I didn’t have any amends to make, really, but it was nice to enjoy the sweetness of being such a part of my dad’s last days.

5) Orphan Girl – Gillian Welch
Okay. This was for the days when I really, really felt bad for myself. I still have a mother, so I’m not really an orphan, but there was still a void that this song seemed to address.

6) Bum Leg – Joe Pernice
This song hit me on a particularly bad night, after visiting my dad who could barely speak for lack of air and when he coughed, you really feared that parts of his lung were coming out.

7) Flirted With You All My Life – Vic Chesnutt
First, this isn’t a love song of any sort. It’s about Vic Chesnutt’s complicated relationship with death. The parts that really struck me were the lines about his mother’s cancer. “When my mom was cancer sick/She fought but them succomb to it/But you made her beg for it.” I knew that’s how it would be with my dad.

8) Song For My Father – Horace Silver
I heard this on the way to the hospital when my dad was first diagnosed with cancer. It was a nice peppy jazz tune that helped me feel that things might be okay.

9) Air – Talking Heads
“Air can hurt you too.” I thought of this line often when I’d see my dad struggling to breathe. It hurt to breathe. It hurt not to breathe.

10) Art Of Dying – George Harrison
This song actually cheered me up a lot, because it mentions reincarnation, and even though I don’t believe in that sort of thing, I also don’t believe that I’ll ever win the lottery. So there’s the, “Maybe it could happen,” that keeps you going. So maybe my dad will come back in some form. Maybe we’re not really just lumps of flesh and bone that move around for a while and then stop moving. Maybe. Maybe not.


One comment on “The Writing Room: Soundtrack for a Dying Dad, an excerpt from my forthcoming zine

  1. jainabee
    June 27, 2013

    Wonderful playlist and moving descriptions. Many of these songs I’ve never heard before, but now I’m gonna go find ’em.

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This entry was posted on June 26, 2013 by in The Writing Room.

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