The YouTube video above is of a very rough recording (one take, live, just me and a guitar) of a rough draft of a song that I started writing a while ago, when a niece of mine died. It was at that point just some rough ideas, snippets of lyrics, articulated as an outlet for grief.
I didn’t pursue it further, until I saw the movie The Fault In Our Stars. That got me thinking once again about untimely deaths, cancer, transience, and oblivion.
The original idea had simply played on the fact that “half life” – which literally refers to the amount of time it takes for half of a quantity of a radioactive element to decay into a different element – is a phrase that also makes one think of “half a life” – a life cut short too soon.
As I started thinking about it again, lots of connections began to come to the fore. Radioactivity is connected with cancer. It also measures the long epochs which threaten to not merely erase the individual lives that are themselves so short, but whole civilizations, whole species, and all memory thereof.
Most of the lyrics that were very esoteric and had to do with the exploration of these atomic and geological resonances ended up being set aside. But hopefully the song still works. Today would have been my niece’s birthday, and so it seem an appropriate time to share the song. Below are the lyrics, which are also included in the YouTube video.
You were in your prime, but time
Ran out before your time
Had fully come
And now you’re gone
A stone now marks the place
With words that time must soon efface
How will they know
That you were?
All things must change
One rock decays
And one remains
The world can never stay the same
And if a thousand years
Won’t pass before our eyes and ears
Have passed away
Will nothing stay?
It seems our sorrows last
Our tears of liquid turn to gas
Then into rain
And fall again
If the norm were two hundred years
A life of ninety would seem small
It’s better to have lived a half a life,
than not have lived at all
You were in your prime
But time ran out…
The world is strange
One heart decays
And one remains
And I will never be the same
(c) 2014 James F. McGrath