Friday, May 1, 2015

Typhoon lyrics that make me think of Cara

Music can be a very powerful thing. In case anyone reading this doesn't know us personally, my wife Cara recently passed away from lung cancer. Music was a big part of our relationship. At the funeral service, we started and ended the proceedings with two songs I had gotten from Cara's starred tracks on Spotify, Cat Power's "Sea of Love" and Death Cab for Cutie's "Stay Young, Go Dancing," and they perfectly rounded out an already profoundly sad yet beautiful occasion.

This post, by the way, is not so much about Cara herself but rather about the role music played in my own handling of the whole ordeal. However, rest assured I fully intend to write a lot more about Cara in the weeks and months ahead.

Now that she is gone, I find I suddenly have the desire to share a lot of thoughts and feelings that were previously private. Some of them were things I only talked about with Cara, others were things I talked about with no one at all. This is one of the latter.

It's kind of eerie looking back. On July 1, 2013, my mother sent me an email with the title "Typhoon | Wexner Center for the Arts" and body as follows:
Have you heard of this band? The blurb makes comparison to Arcade Fire. I was wondering if you think Cara might enjoy going to hear them on her birthday. The 3 of us could go (Dad would be playing hockey.)
I'll also send link to their performance on Letterman.
I replied:
I have heard of them, but not listened to them much yet. I had thought they sounded interesting and was planning to listen to them more some time between now and September. They are playing at the Beachland the day before that show. I'll have to ask Cara whether she would be interested. She might like to visit Columbus for her birthday but I'm not sure.
Now, here's the thing. Asking a question like this wasn't something my mom ever did. I can't remember ever going to a rock/pop/folk concert with her and not my dad (we did go to an orchestra performance once but that's different). What was it that made her ask this, just this one time, about this one specific band, for a show on Cara's birthday?

We didn't end up going to that show, of course, because a month before Cara's birthday she was hospitalized leading to a diagnosis of stage IV lung adenocarcinoma. I did, though, go to the Typhoon show in Cleveland the day before her birthday that I mentioned in my email. It would be the first of three times I would see Typhoon live during the time that Cara was battling cancer. I did not start listening to Typhoon in earnest until shortly after Cara was diagnosed, and I quickly found that there was so much in their music that spoke to me. Their music became therapeutic to me in a way. You see, the band's lead singer Kyle Morton contracted Lyme disease as a youth, nearly died, had to spend a long time in the hospital, and has continued to experience the effects of this throughout his life, and this ordeal has had a huge influence on his songwriting. Thus, I could see reflected in his lyrics many of the same things Cara and I were going through. I never talked about this with anyone, because I didn't want Cara to know how much I was thinking about the possibility of her dying. In fact, although Typhoon is the band I've listened to by far the most in the 20 months since she was diagnosed, it was rare that I even listened to their music in her presence.

To better explain this, I wanted to just share some lyrics from Typhoon songs that really stood out to me. In most cases, the reasons should be clear, but for some I'll provide an explanation. By the way, I do find the Arcade Fire comparison apt, especially for the most recent Typhoon album White Lighter. It's not that Typhoon are aping Arcade Fire's sound, but rather that they also have the whole "band with a large number of members, many different instruments, rousing group vocals, and lots of cathartic moments in their music" thing going.

Some lyrics from the song "Artificial Light":

I woke up in the morning
To a pale light tangled in your hair
And I never wake before you
But this time I caught you sleeping there
[Note: I related to this part because, for most of the time we were together, it was very unusual for me to wake before Cara. On those rare occasions, I liked to watch her sleeping. But then, in the last 20 months, it became normal for me to wake before her.]

Yes, you are my sunlight
You are my last breath of air
I would try to hold it
I would try to keep the moment
Like a photograph of the sunset
Like a little kid with a bug net
Like a dying man, I swear

You belong to me, you belong to me
If you belong to anyone then you belong to me
But I have no other place to keep you safe
But in my shaky, ever shaking melody

From "Young Fathers":

Now I'm as old as you were when you had me
Should I be afraid? Should I start a family?
Raise them in the wild 'cause up against the city
My love is such a small thing
[The above is not really so much related to Cara, but sticks out to me because I am in fact now as old (31 years) as my mother was when she had me.]


I was born in September [Cara was born in September]
And if I died today
Just know I don't regret you
Some things I can explain

From "Morton's Fork":

Turns out that we are shit out of luck
There are things in the woods 
That will prey on the things that you love

And they'll come through the fold
This is the sound of a wild pack of hungry wolves
I won't lie to you
It'll be painful
It's in your nature to fear what is natural

From "Possible Deaths":

Count down the time that you have left
In a jar try to catch, try and capture it
Count down the time that you have left
In the dark try to catch, try and capture it
Count down the time that you have left
In a jar try to catch, try and capture it
Count down the time that you have left

From "The Lake":

And then as my body turned against itself
I prayed for death that I’d come back to be anyone else
As the sickness formed within my cells
You never loved me like the way you loved anyone else

From "Prosthetic Love":

Each time I wake I’m still alive
Outlived my expiration date imagine my surprise
[There was a time around Thanksgiving of 2013 when I thought Cara would die soon, but fortunately she was able to get better and live a lot longer than it first appeared she would, with a lot more happy memories.]


Of everyone I ever knew
I’ve gotten used to you
I’ve grown attached to you being here
Of everyone I ever knew
I learned to count on you
As my own fingers

From "Common Sentiments":

When am I gonna feel better?
When am I gonna feel better
When am I gonna feel better
I have been patient for a long time now
I’ve been a patient for a long time now
I’ve been a patient for a long time now
I’ve been a patient for a long time now
and I will never be a younger man now

O what am I waiting for
A spell to be cast or for it to be broken?
[What this line meant to me: "A spell to be cast" would be a cure for Cara's cancer, "or for it to be broken" would be if we were just under some sort of spell, like the whole thing was a dream, and it could just go away.]
At the very last some wild ghost from my past come to split me wide open?
No.  If I hold out my hand there is nothing at all because nothing’s the token
I will be good though my body be broken 
[The line "I will be good though my body be broken" then repeats a number of times, with the whole band joining in, building to one of those chills-inducing cathartic moments I alluded to. This line was a double whammy for me because, although it is not in any way on a similar level to what Cara went through, my own body has also been quite unkind to me over the years.]

I will be good
may I want for nothing at all

From "Summer Home":

Can we wait for the summer again?
Can we hold out for summer again?
Can we ever be whole again?
[During both winters Cara lived through with cancer, she was longing to get back to warmer weather.]

From "The Sickness Unto Death":

Life is for the living
I've heard tell that it is why we are young
In the morning sun
You take every year as it comes
But when your life is over
All those years fold up like an accordion 
They collapse just like a broken lung

Now I've only got one organ left and this old bag of bones it is failing me
And I try to tell people that I'm dying only they don't believe me
They say we're all dying, that we're all dying
But if you are dying, why aren't you scared?
Why aren't you scared 
Like I am scared?


Every bitter night into an empty room I plead my case
Every night I pray that in the morning when I wake
I'll be in a familiar place and find that I'm recovered and I'm sane
And I'll remember everything
I'll remember what I was like before that bug bit me

Well, that was a lot, but I guess it's pretty apparent why this music was and is so meaningful to me. I hope this journey into my mind was interesting.

I'd imagine some people who saw me recently might have been surprised at how composed I was staying. Well, I can say that the times I cried, it was mostly when I was by myself. I guess that's just the way I am. I have cried a lot, especially in the first couple days. Sometimes crying is important to do. When I was driving home from Columbus the day after the funeral, I listened to Typhoon's White Lighter album and that got the tears going again at some parts. Music can help us get in touch with emotions that might otherwise remain buried. That's part of its power.

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