I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.
Several years ago, we attended Milwaukee Irish Fest
, the annual musical and cultural experience of everything even remotely Irish. While wandering the grounds, we discovered the band, Schooner Fare
, a trio of singer-songwriters from Maine that captivated us with their tight harmonies, their musicianship and their enthusiasm. It was a great show.
After the performance, we bought a CD and made our way to the tables outside of the stage where the singers were signing autographs. We reached the front of the line.
As we greeted the performers, I was appalled. Two of the three were smoking cigarettes. “You depend on your voices to make your livings!”
I heard myself saying. “I take care of people with throat cancer. What are you thinking?”
I do not remember their responses, although they acknowledged that they knew the habit was bad. I quickly wondered if I had overstepped my bounds. I thanked them and left.
For a few years after that, Schooner Fare continued to perform at Irish Fest and we continued to sit in the audience and cheer. Then, suddenly, they were no longer on the schedule. It turned out that bass player and singer Tom Rowe
had developed throat cancer and died while receiving chemotherapy at age 53.
I still think of him as a talented songwriter, a confident and energetic performer, and a crowd-pleasing musician. He had a versatile and expressive voice. For me, it remains eerie that this person, whose talents I truly enjoyed, was taken by the kind of cancer I have spent my career battling. The day he died, the outside world crowded close to my professional world in a new and uncomfortable way.
Tom Rowe’s death still saddens me whenever I listen to one of his rollicking bass lines or hear him harmonize on one of the band’s albums. I still wish that there had been something I might have said to him on that day, long ago, that would have made a difference.
The following are comments received for this blog:I work at Ft. Detrick in Fredrick Maryland, half of the base is used by the National Cancer Research Institute. As I go across the base I see little knots of cancer researchers puffing away. Every one of them thinks they will stop one cigarette short of cancer.
- Mark A.
The folks at Milwaukee Irish Fest have told me that Schooner Fare (without Tom Rowe) will appear again this coming year. See you there the weekend of August 20, 2010!
- Bruce Campbell