How a Starman (David Bowie) and a Hero (DanBH) Validated My Life

David-Bowie-1974Nearly four months on, and I am still trying to grasp the concept of a world without the physically comforting cosmic genius of David Bowie. But, that’s nothing new for me. It has been 3 years, 8 1/2 months since my late husband Dan passed, and I’ve not really moved on from that. Sure, I’ve changed jobs (and subsequently returned to my original company), moved residence, resumed most of my creative interests…but the grieving process seems to be stuck. It must be the stuff I’m made of.

One thing I’m usually very good at is blocking the bits of my past life that are dark, desolate, and decidedly depressing. David Bowie’s death dredged that stinking muck back up and forced me to confront it head on. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because now I’ve been able to let go of a lot of repressed anxiety born of stuffing ungodly visions deep down the memory hole. But, it was a thousand times more painful than satisfying.

Thirty-five+ years ago (a lifetime for many), the lifelong feelings of being a misfit in an un-accepting world reached a head. I found an artificial way to cope, which involved ingesting large amounts of illicit substances. The chemical cocktails made me perceive the world to be a place where I actually fit in, felt productive, and gave me a sense of purpose. Little did I know (or want to believe) that the sense of purpose would end up being a daily visceral drive to find new heights of chemically-induced bliss. The miracle in all of this is that I lived through it. That’s where Mr. Bowie comes in.

With no Internet at my disposal back then, I received music news in bits and pieces from magazines and Bowie_smile_3television (MTV was in its infancy stages). I “discovered” David Bowie late-70s and just prior to sinking to my lowest point. I remember reading a story about how he had been in a similar mess, but had the stones to walk away from it and clean up his life. Not only was he creating and delivering superior music, he was having a ball finding himself, a quest that would end up being a lifelong journey. I so admired his strength and his ability to slip seemingly effortlessly through the world; not as a knock-off wanna-be clone, but as himself. Decidedly misfit, but happy in his own skin.

I started sleeping in front of the stereo, Bowie vinyl platters piled high, listening through huge headphones, lulled to sleep by endless stories of struggle, (at times) defeat, and redemption. His poetic verses described cold, unfriendly worlds, damning events, uncaring accomplices, herculean trials–but they always had a glimmer of hope, a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, and a sense of purpose in a chaotic world unsympathetic to those who refuse to walk lockstep to the boringly predictable drumbeat.

Bowie_Serious_1Eventually, I, too found the stones to walk away from certain self-destruction, and into the light of the satisfaction of knowing that yes, I’m “different,” but it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me, as long as I somehow make the world a better place for others. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

I had a setback a decade later, following a divorce and entering into an abusive relationship. Bowie’s music was forbidden in the new household, lauded as “fag crap,” and only the Rolling Stones (I wonder if Mr. Sensitive knew that Mick and David had had a dalliance) and ZZ Top were allowed. Thank God I had the presence of mind to hide away and hang onto my Bowie vinyl. I remained in that nightmare of a relationship for 5 very long years (queue up Bowie’s “Five Years” here) until I met the second hero of this maudlin story, my late husband Dan. But sadly, I had lost touch with Bowie’s world. I knew he had gotten married, and was still making music, but not much more beyond that. I had been too busy trying to survive by not poking the hornet’s nest.

Dan_Christmas_1999With Dan, another of life’s misfits and a kindred spirit, came a sense of renewal. Not only had I been given a second chance, but now a third, and I was not going to muck it up. He was truly my soul mate, the one that my bad choices put me on the right path to meet. He, too, was a Bowie fan, but we both were bogged down with work and trying to stay afloat financially. We moved from FL to GA and then back to FL, all in the span of 6 years. Life was busy, and something was wrong with Dan’s health, so it became challenging and a balancing act that consumed most of our free time. David Bowie suffered a heart attack in 2004, and Dan had his in 2005. Along with Dan’s attack came the grim news that he also had a rare and incurable vasculitis disease called Churg Strauss Syndrome. The two heroes in my life were forced to make life-altering decisions at almost the same time.

I made it my quest to ensure the remainder of Dan’s life had a note of quality and dignity. He died August 21, 2012 after a courageous struggle. Part of me died with him, but I am convinced his spirit walks with me, overseeing many of my decisions and helping me through the rough spots. David Bowie started releasing music a year later (2013) after a long hiatus to be with his beloved family. The floodgates opened for him and remained open until January 10 of this year, right up to the end. He and Dan shared something very special. They refused to accept death as a possibility, and especially not an end,  and for that reason both of their spirits shine brightly among the stars, still very much a part of this life and those who loved them.

Shortly after Bowie’s death, which was incredibly and personally devastating, I started replacing my vinyl, and ripping the CDs to my computer (which has a decent speaker system). I also filled in a few of the missing pieces and put together one helluva playlist. I have been sleeping to it every night (and playing it every day while working) for the past 3 months, and that has been what keeps the decades-old demons at bay.

During those moments when I can see clearly through the haze of grief, I consider myself very lucky, indeed, to have 2 such incredibly gifted and “different” angels watching over me for whatever time I have left on this world. After that, I will make it my eternal mission to follow them both to the ends of the universe.

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80’s Music Rules ~ Music to Grieve By

August 24, 2012

Dear Dan,

Rest in peace my best friend, my constant companion, my beloved. You fought valiantly against the horror of a disease, Churg Strauss Syndrome, that left your body ravaged and destroyed. But the illness never dampened your strong will, your courage, nor your wicked sense of humor. We both made sure it never stole your dignity, nor your indomitable spirit.

Thank you for the best years of my life, for being my biggest fan, and for always cheering me on when I felt lost and defeated. In return, I hope that you knew how much I loved (and will always love) you and how strongly I encouraged your daily fight. I am a better person because of you, and a lost soul without you.

You are forever my role model and my hero.

All my love,
Sandy
xo

Peter Murphy ~ I’ll Fall With Your Knife ~ via YouTube user barriovideopro:

Gary Numan ~ You Walk In My Soul ~ via YouTube user ChildIncomplete:

Roxy Music ~ More Than This ~ via YouTube user memorylane1980s:

David Bowie ~ Heroes (Stage Live Version) ~ via YouTube user AlfredTheCrate:

80’s Music Rules ~ Devastating Illness ~ Churg Strauss Syndrome

PA260167I’m going to depart from my normal posting pattern and take the time to discuss something very personal and very disturbing that casts a shadow on my life each and every day.

 My better half suffers from a little-known affliction called Churg Strauss Syndrome (CSS). Over the past few years, I have helplessly watched this once vital and energetic man become slowed down, beaten down, and hollowed out by this awful and misunderstood disease.

 It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

 CSS is one of about 14 forms of Vasculitis disease. Other related conditions you may have heard of are Wegener’s, Behcet’s, and Kawasaki (what John Travolta’s late son suffered from). It’s an autoimmune disorder that affects the arteries and major organs. The symptoms are many, diverse, and difficult to pin down as actually being a part of CSS.

 Hubby started out with what was thought to be a strange combination of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, the onset of which occurred during middle-age. Other odd symptoms cropped up over time: weird little bumps that would come and go just beneath the surface of the skin, chronic sinusitis, low-grade fever, joint swelling, transient pain, high eosinophil count, frightening nodes that would show up on lung x-rays then quickly disappear. Each symptom would require a new drug, a new specialist, and a longer journey down a darkened road with no end in sight. Finally, in December 2005, hePA250095 suffered a heart attack.

 Shortly after, a very astute physician began to “connect the dots” and four years ago, hubby was given a diagnosis that would change both of our lives; the cause of all of his unusual and seemingly disjointed symptoms had a name. That was the good news of the “good news, bad news” epiphany we experienced. The bad news was, he was already in stage three and there was no cure.

 Music has always brought me solace, quieted my fears, eased my pain, and given me escape from a life that is sometimes downright cruel and difficult to deal with. Over the past several years, music, and the friends I have made as a result of my passion and love for it, have made dealing with my best friend’s, my companion’s, my soul-mate’s affliction just a tad easier. It is because of you that I’m not paralyzed with fear as each new day dawns; I can be strong, and in so doing, help my husband stare down a vicious and pernicious enemy. I can’t thank you (and you all know who you are) enough.

 These are just some of the songs that have seen me through. For my husband, my friends, and the music, I am eternally grateful.

 “Primitive Painters” by Felt via YouTube user mrbriefcasetv2:

 “Dark” by Gary Numan via YouTube user PatrickIngham21:

 “Soul In Isolation” by the Chameleons via YouTube user LeftHandOfDarkness:

 “This Big Hush” by Shriekback via YouTube user 1prosszto1:

 “Linoleum” by Tweaker (feat. David Sylvian) via YouTube user tonyreyes:

 “Ocean Rain” by Echo and the Bunnymen via YouTube user DrCheese01:

 “Violet Light” by Raised By Swans via YouTube user cloudtifa: