I went to a funeral last week. I haven’t been to many funerals, and only one of them has been for a person I was close to. Most of them have been for people who were older and had enjoyed a long and happy life. Two, however, have been for people close to my own age. One of them was for a boy who committed suicide when we were in Year 11. The other was for the brother of an old friend, a man only two years older than myself. This was the funeral I attended last week.
For some reason, this one has really affected me, almost more so than my grandpa’s, which was the first death I experienced of someone that I was close to. I think it might be because I hadn’t talked to this man in a over a year, and only once or twice since I learned he had cancer. I think it’s because he’s my vintage, my generation. I think it’s because I grew up with his family and now part of that family is gone.
Maybe we don’t fully grow up until our peers start falling down around us.
I’ve been listening to The Antlers Hospice this afternoon, an album that, coincidentally, is about a man who watches a loved one die of cancer. I’ve been meaning to write about it for months now, but every time I’ve tried, words have failed. It’s a heartbreakingly gorgeous album, too gorgeous to justice to with mere words I think, and that’s why I’ve been struggling.
I don’t think it’s enough to just have a digital version of this album either – you really need the physical copy to fully appreciate its beauty. The artwork is haunting and lovely and the lyrics, written out as paragraphs and not lines, give the feeling of an epic novel, rather than just a collection of songs.
Every track is magnificent, truly, but the standouts for me are ‘Kettering’, ‘Bear’ and ‘Two’ (potential song of the year?).
You said you hated my tone, it made you feel so alone, and so you told me I ought to be leaving. But something kept me standing by that hospital bed, I should have quit but instead I took care of you. You made me sleep and uneven, and I didn’t believe them when they told me that there was no saving you.
There’s a bear inside your stomach, the cub’s been kicking you for weeks. And if this isn’t all a dream well then we’ll cut him from beneath. Well we’re not scared of making caves or finding food for him to eat. We’re terrified of one another and terrified of what that means. But we’ll make only quick decisions and you’ll just keep my in the waiting room. And all the while i’ll know we’re fucked and not getting unfucked soon. When we get home we’re bigger strangers than we’ve ever been before you sit in front of snowy television, suitcase on the floor.
Something in my throat made my next words shake, and something in the wires made the lightbulbs break. There was glass inside my feet and raining down from the ceiling, it opened up the scars that had just finished healing.
That line about being ‘bigger strangers than we’ve ever been before’ slays me every time, and could easily be applied to any human relationship, regardless of the medical status of the participants. While this is a concept album specifically about somebody dying of cancer, what I love about it is that it can be interpreted in so many ways.
The Antlers are currently touring everywhere but Australia (grrrrr) and you can find out more about their upcoming gigs at their myspace.