We each owe a death
We each owe a death — there are no exceptions. But , oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long. – The Green Mile
There is a poigniancy to that quote that resonates with me. Mortality is something that we cannot ever hope to escape. Even if medical science completely erases cancer from our bodies. Even if our lives are extended by another fifty years. We all owe a death.
It is the price we pay for living.
Michael Matheny died this weekend after a two year battle with cancer. I knew Michael but I wouldn’t say we were good friends. He was a tremendously talented musician and he, along with Ken Larson and Lojo Russo formed the band Gallowglass.
Those three are as responsible as anyone for the existence of The Dregs. I remember in their first year, when they were a five piece band instead of the three-piece band most of us remember. They played on the Witchwood stage at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and I, along with several others would dance to their music every morning.
Ken dubbed us the “solid mud dancers.”
In that first year, Gallowglass performed a song called “Farewell to Carlingford,” which I loved. It was one of the few songs they performed a-capella and their harmonies were as tight as any festival band I’ve ever heard. It was that song that made me interested in the kinds of harmonies The Dregs work on now. I always think back to the Gallowglass version of Carlingford and ask myself “is this harmony as good as that one?”
Years later, when I began performing with Eddie Jeff Cahill, I asked him if he knew “Farewell to Carlingford.” He did and it became one of our signature songs. We still perform it any time we sing together.
Gallowglass had such a tremendous mix of musicality and humor that they rapidly rose to be the most admired band at the festival. They always tried to find a unique approach to the music they were performing and they were all such gifted musicians that they couldn’t help but put a personal stamp on any song they performed.
Michael is gone now and yet, I don’t think anyone should tell me that they are sorry for my loss because, truthfully, I’ve lost very little. I still have all my memories of Michael’s music. I’ve lost the opportunity to see him perform live. I’ve lost the opportunity to briefly talk with him once or twice a year. I’ve lost the opportunity to attend the next Gallowglass reunion because there won’t be one.
I still have The Dregs. Without Michael, Ken and Lojo, we wouldn’t exist. So long as the Dregs exist, Michael will have always given me more than I could ever lose when he passed.
Cancer took Michael, and that is sad. Fuck cancer, yes, but we could just as easily say fuck mortality. We all owe a death.
Michael paid his debt. Too soon, I think. Yet, those of us who knew him and still owe that debt can think back on the ways he influenced us and be grateful that he shared his time and talent with us.
He was an inspiration to me and if I have a regret in his passing, it is that I never said that to him. He deserved to know how his talents inspired others.
To Ken and Lojo, I’m sorry for the loss. You were all an inspiration to me and you inspire many others.
I can only hope when my time comes that my friends will remember me as I remember Michael and Lojo and Ken (and Gary Parker and Terry Foy and Eddie Jeff Cahill and so many more). When they finally have to pay their debt, I’ll remember what they gave to me rather than what I’ve lost.
Farewell Michael, and thank you.