Half Life

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.

Half Life


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?


Half life
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…



Half life
The world is strange
One heart decays
And one remains
And I will never be the same

(c) 2014 James F. McGrath

"How does your verbiage help stem the destruction of the world by religion?"

How Children are Led Astray into ..."
"Jesus mythicists are misled (note the spelling) and there is veniality in abundance, but should ..."

How Children are Led Astray into ..."
"What about religion is moral or decent or even basically honest? Proponents of religion are ..."

How Children are Led Astray into ..."
"It sounds like the latter is not a serious question. Can you really think of ..."

How Children are Led Astray into ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gary

    Reminds me of what Polkinghorne says, you have to take the entire process as a whole, take the good with the bad. Heat from radioactive elements decaying to their half life maintained our life-favorable temperatures and a molten core. Otherwise we’d look like Mars. And then, the half life process is itself an “almost” infinite process (till you get down to the last radioactive atom), since it is 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, etc. Oblivion, I guess, is the final big freeze.