"I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's going to be a bright (bright) sunshiny day.."
Music can express so much in and of our lives, times of joy and times of sadness. The above was sung with a tone of clarity and rhythm by Jimmy Cliff in 1993, and originally written and performed by Johnny Nash in 1972 for his album of the same name. In 1972 it was used for a Nescafe advert (video above), as a 'short' it was always a welcome lift for me at the Cinema as a advert . Inspired by a new musical relationship with Bob Marley and the Wailers and the Reggae scene, Nash spent time with Marley in sunny Kingston Jamaica, they met at a Rastafarian party. Nash fell in love with reggae and through it a new expression of himself. 'I Can See Clearly Now' was about - Hope and Courage. Marley himself had become a voice of spirituality and personal revolution, he owed a lot of his early success to Nash.
Marley was to write a Redemption song in 1980 (Album Uprising). Redemption song reflected the centuries-old oppression of people of African descent. In itself, that song not only reflects the plight but the dignity, and hope, of slaves and the result of 'holding on
"minutes after they took I
from the bottomless pit
but my hand was made strong
by the hand of the almighty
we forward in this generation
Thus it does have a kind of specificity however its message has strength for all of us in adversity, and thus is universal. Many have found solace within its score and lyrics.
Sometimes we never discover who we truly are until we descend into crisis, I guess this can sometimes feel like a " bottomless pit". From that place sometimes miracles can be constructed. Maybe some deep resilience lies within my genes, as I am the descendant of African slaves, my father was also cruelly treated as a child, his upbringing a legacy of the darkness submerged within the culture of the colonies.
My Son Oliver has been in a fight from the day he was born, a degenerative muscle/ mobility disease and mild autism have meant the world has always been a challenge. Somehow he has found a way to live a good life. Im his Dad, and with his Mum we have helped where we can. Parents do what they can , they have a responsibility and are directed by love, we have stood up where we were needed,and stood in the background when he had to find his own way. His world is this; he has always been able to drum, and learning to "beat " a drum, led him to love music. Together with drumming and an immersion into the Heavy Metal music scene , this led him out of personal adversity, his way of being seen in a world that can render difference not seen, indeed it can be ,to become invisible. When I consider how drums have been his lifeline I think of the Japanese performers the Kodo drummers. Kodo means heartbeat. Perhaps the first drum we ever hear is the beat of a mother's heart, beating within the darkness of the womb calling us to life. For Oliver's life there is great meaning in the relationship of the drum and the heart.
Oliver was going to need every grain of his slave inheritance of resilience and dignity to get through what was coming. He would also have to connect with his own heartbeat intimately. What was coming? a personal storm where he would have to hold onto every breath and stay alive. Truly he would have to touch "the bottomless pit". His heart was failing and initially, it was not realised that his heart ( diagnosed with a weakening condition termed Cardiomyopathy) had reached end stage failure . Without medical intervention he would have months to live .
Metaphorically (7 months later Since Aug 2022) )I sit today on some distant hillside watching the tail end of this life storm, Oliver my son has had a heart transplant. This was the intervention that has promised him more years of life . This has been the most arduous journey , blasted by this "storm". I have accompanied him not always boldly but always present.
The storm clouds first arrived at our horizon in July 2022, For myself and his Mum , simple parent sacrifice and love with the additional demand of our professional Nursing and Therapy skills. These skills were imperative as was the support of friends both close and distant . It's always a deep question at this time to decide whether not informing your friends is the best approach or asking for their support. For myself, I chose the latter and I believe in no shame in asking for help. At this point, I would like to highlight this choice and describe how I felt that there was something "virtuous" also in the sharing of the pain and harrowing details. I learned in the sharing that my friends had their troubles too and of course, the story here is that we all struggle, there are personal battles everywhere. Support is mine to humbly request now , and also mine to give now and in the future, for my friends. My new training as a coach qualifies our relationships within the 'human story', my mentor Easton Hamilton from the Reach Approach describes our lives as a collective - a 'virtuous circle'.
It was to be a harrowing and difficult journey to a Heart Transplant, only a little space at each milestone where we could "take a break and regroup. There were times when I thought we wouldn't survive the night , his breathing intermittent and difficult. There was a time when the Cardiologist warned us off of at three crucial days at the Cardiac Critcal Care Unit(CCU), a poor response meant he would have three days to live . We prepared ourselves and the family for the worse. One of the many difficult milestones to pass, but somehow we made it!. The third day occurred on exactly his birthday 28th October!. I gives thanks that he responded an was then given the opportunity of a transplant.
Even at this point as the darkest moments are passing over, my psyche creates the imagery of a man drenched in rain holding his son . We are battered by a storm that now passes over. The storm clouds still rage on as I watch the blue patches starting to blend into the angry and slate grey. Flashes of light streak the sky still, displaying the sheer power that has passed over us. Distant rumbles now, explosive heartbeat of the skies, in ancient times perhaps we would think the gods had been appeased in some way . I breathe great sighs of relief, reflecting on how during this storm I had to leave him in the darkness to walk his own destiny , the hardest thing for a father or parent , the hardest I have done so far in this life .!
As the storm passes, I feel the need to share Oliver's story and of course my own and my familys' in accompanying him. No two lives are the same, yet we can share elements his story has become very part of our own, even though it his own I didn't feel his drowning through collapsing lungs, yet my heart broke into so many pieces to try and keep him alive .
Our story has become embedded in the lives of our friends and all who supported us, indeed as my commitment to them , theirs will always be embedded in mine , thought and prayer and action wherever possible . For Oliver a new heart ,for myself I get to keep my shattered ( emotional) heart . In Japan its a traditional craft to repair broken pottery through art called Kintsugi (golden repair) . A craft art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer and gold dust that dates back to the 16th century with the practice of cermonial tea. It is the same with my heart , the repair will be made of the 'goldust' of love and new experiences for myself ,and new life with Oliver . A beautiful repair, thus this will be what will ensue by intention and through spontanaieity . How long will it take? , certainly, I neither seek or expect it to happen overnight.
If you wait in hope of a heart transplant , if muscular dystrophy affects your life , there will much here for you . I'm planning on writing every week. My hope is that there is more here of the unfoldment of life which is also every-man , we always hope when the good comes its here to stay
Hey hey I saved the World today
Everybody's happy now the bad things gone away
.....the good things is here to stay
Please let it stay ...
Dave Stewart / Annie Lennox