Monday, 8 June 2015

If Venice Is Sinking

There are many constants in our lives that we take for granted.  We live on the assumption that there will be a tomorrow and that's a lot of the reason why we put off taking risks until later, whether it's looking for that job that will make us happy or saving that dream vacation for tomorrow or someday.

The other night we went to a concert at Massey Hall to see the band Spirit of the West perform.  Not sure who they are?  They are a Canadian folk/alternative band who are most well known for the frosh week classic Home for a Rest that also gets played at almost every Canadian wedding I've ever been to.

twin babies at a concert
Molly and Jack One Month Old at Spirit of the West 

Chris and I have always made a point to see Spirit of the West when they are in town and have seen them at least six times together.  This band is a constant in our relationship and holds a special place in my heart as it's the first concert that Molly and Jack ever attended when they were only one month old during the Dragon Boat Festival on a warm September afternoon in 2011.  It was at this show that I had one of those first moments in parenthood where I felt like we were finding our stride.  The show was such a success that we took the minions to see the band at a summer festival in Burlington in summer 2012 as well.

A couple of years ago Spirit of the West's front man, John Mann, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease (you can read about it in this article in the Globe and Mail).  Despite this news, and with the help of an iPad mounted on a microphone stand, Mann is still performing and on what the the band refers to as their retrospective tour (they won't call it their farewell tour).

baby at a concert
Molly at the Burlington Music Festival 2012

Going out to see the band, possibly for the last time, was an emotional experience to say the least.  If the response from the show-goers was a fraction of the sentiment felt, I can only imagine the tensions back stage.  Witnessing the friendship and support of the band as longtime songwriter/collaborator/band mate Geoff Kelly, who now serves as the narrator to stories that Mann once wrote and shared with ease but can no longer, is both sublimely beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking.  To watch Mann put every ounce of his concentration on the lyrics in front of him when just a few years ago they fell out of his mouth as easy as breathing was sometimes painful.  All of that being said, the love around him, the joy of being able to do what he loves is one of the most moving things I think I have ever witnessed.  The amount of support that the entire band has for each other and their craft is something truly remarkable.

It was an amazing show, with a seemingly deliberately selected song that was placed near the very end of their set.  As Mann sang out the lyrics to his song Unplugged,* so many things about this tour became painfully clear.

At this show we got to witness a man who is acutely aware that he's living on borrowed time and as we discussed with a friend after the show, "losing more and more of himself each and every day".  I am so glad that we went to see Spirit of the West on their retrospective tour.  I am thankful for the reminder to push ourselves towards what we want and what we need, to make more memories than money, to take time for experiences not things...and to hug and appreciate your good friends and family as tightly as you can because nothing is forever.

Thank you John are brave, inspiring and absolutely beautiful.

*Unplugged Lyrics - Spirit of the West 1995

The ceiling's too familiar
Laying slack-jawed on my back
And the words spit out like puzzles
As she tries to fill the gap

But my lover's not my mother
And the hands that wipe my ass
Are the hands that once caressed me
I don't want them to detest me

And I will not burden those I love
I will not be a spoon-fed bird
I'll beg for mercy from above
Oh let my cord become unplugged

The man from Holland left the room
But he never left his bed
On his birthday after brandy
He chose angel choirs instead

The first one was for sleeping
The next one took his breath
His wife left his bedside to reflect
In a rocking chair with a cigarette

And I will not burden those I love
I will not be a spoon-fed bird
I'll beg for mercy from above
Oh let my cord become unplugged

I will not burden those I love
I will not be a spoon-fed bird
I'll beg for mercy from above
Oh let my cords
Oh let my cord become unplugged

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