I had the opportunity to participate with Hartbeat co-curator, Vivian Hart in the Hudson Relay For Life on June 25th. Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society's annual event to raise funds and awareness about cancer. We were two of four Honorary Co-Chairs and we spoke at the opening of the luminaria ceremony. The theme of the event was: A Community of Super Heroes...Fighting for a Common Cause!
My speech was like a Hartbeat delivered as a spoken word version. What follows here is the text of what I said on that rainy night. I put in subheads to follow the written Hartbeat style and added the Three Doors Down reference the more I thought about kryptonite.
Civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. has a slogan that he's known for: "Keep Hope Alive!" Since my wife, Vivian, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in May of 2009, this slogan has become my philosophy as her caregiver and life partner.
Keep on Pushing
I've got to keep on pushing
I can't stop now
Move up a little higher, someway, somehow
In the early 70's I had the opportunity to meet Rhythm and Blues great Curtis Mayfield. Curtis was a small in stature, a soft-spoken unassuming man who wrote and sang songs that provided inspiration. I always enjoyed his music and I think that his 1964 composition that he recorded with his group, the Impressions, Keep on Pushing fits the attitude of my superhero cancer-fighting wife, Vivian. Her strength and determination have made a great impression on me.
As a caregiver, I am a partner in Vivian's daily pushing forward. The state of Wisconsin's motto is "Forward" and Vivian continues to look ahead. Cancer is often like a stonewall blocking your way on the path of life. The survivor and the caregiver have to keep on pushing that wall like super heroes, calling on all strengths to move that wall aside, even if it means dismantling it brick by brick.
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
I'm sure that we all know the date that cancer knocked on our door. The winding highway we started traveling on May 29th of last year-- the day Vivian was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma--has been an atlas of ups and downs, rough patches, smooth pavements and construction zones, accelerations and slowdowns.
Vivian has fueled her journey with a positive attitude, determination and most of all humor. As with many super heroes, her fuel pellets sometimes are depleted from extended use. That is when I look for a phone booth to change into my superhero garb. Finding a phone booth is becoming increasingly difficult in these days of cell phones, so I use a virtual booth when I don my cape, adjust my headlamp, secure my energy belt and extend my gloved hand to her.
Hold on, (hold on), hold on (hold on)-Keep Your Eyes On the Prize
One song of the Civil Rights movement was Keep Your Eyes On the Prize. For those in the fight against cancer, the prize is very simple: living.
Keep Your Eyes On the Prize is based on a gospel song, Keep Your Hand on the Plow. I don't have experience keeping the horses going as we plow the fields we acquired on May 29, 2009. In plowing the field of surviving cancer, the furrows can sometimes wander and you may hit a rock. You have to hold on firmly to that plow.
I learned some of my abilities to focus my eyes on the prize, from my father, Avon Hart. My mother, Viola Hart had rheumatic fever as a child that resulted in heart complications later in life. My father and I shared caregiving responsibilities and he was a model for me with his unselfish attitude and ability to adapt to situations. I try to model myself after his lead. One aspect I am working on now is instead of suggesting what we could be doing, to just do it. Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on.
I'll keep you by my side with my superhuman might- Kryptonite
I know that I'm able to perform household tasks because Vivian and I always had a joint partnership in doing these things. We shared child care, grocery shopping, housecleaning, cooking and doing laundry (though I still will sometimes mix a non-colorfast item with the light colors). Even though I'm capable, there are busy, stressful times when I welcome other superheroes aboard. Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church family and people from the support group that Vivian and I started (it meets the third Thursday of each month; 7 PM at the Hudson Hospital). These people have all contributed their superhero skills to our struggle. While I don't have many pearls of wisdom to toss out to you tonight, I have learned that if someone offers to help you, just say yes. Sometimes the kryptonite saps your super-strength; then we all need assistance.
Every year the American Cancer Society helps communities raise awareness and funds to win the fight against cancer. Because of their efforts, those we encounter on our cancer journeys and the support of all of the super heroes here tonight give us hope to win the battle. So, keep on pushing, keep your eyes on the prize and hold on to the plow.
That way, we can keep hope alive for Vivian and all cancer survivors-hope for a good quality of life, hope for a cure and hope that NEVER ceases.
The Hartbeat goes on...
What's cooking on the Hartbeat Grill?
In searching for new music I have discovered that one does not have too look to far afield. My KARE 11 co-worker, Blake Roman Mills, wrote a song (If I Gave) and along with former co-worker Dennis Stearns they added instruments and produced a single. Blake wrote the lyrics, sang and played piano and then sent the file to Dennis, who added more instruments, mixed the tracks and sent it back to Blake. Blake did a little more mixing and posted If I Gave on cdbaby. The collaboration is interesting since Blake lives in Minneapolis and Dennis lives in Kentucky. It's another example of talented musicians recording in their home studios and creating good music.
I downloaded the tune and I really like it. The style of the song reminds me of Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20. Blake and I both grew up in Duluth, and listened to Top 40 radio on WEBC. We did not hear a great deal of rhythm and blues, but we did hear a lot of pop music. If I Gave has a pop sound with a fair amount of angst. In addition to Blake's passionate vocals, Dennis plays some smoking guitar riffs. To check out the song, follow this link.
The Hartbeat and Co-Curator Vivian Hart realized a dream and saw Booker T and the M.G.'s live at the Dakota recently; the show was fantastic. They were joined by Stax legend (they are legends themselves), Eddie Floyd of Knock on Wood fame. The show was full of high points but here is one that really impacted me.
I wore my Memphis Music Hall of Fame t-shirt to the show. The front of the shirt has the famous Stax logo as the focal point. As we were being seated at our table, a man emerged from a hallway, pointed at my shirt and said, "Nice shirt!" I quickly replied, "Donald Duck Dunn!" It was M.G.'s bass player Donald Duck Dunn. Thankfully, I was not tongue tied in the presence of the great bassman. We talked about gigs he's played for over forty five years. He told me that Booker T is the maestro and any opportunity to play with him is something he doesn't want to miss. He also told me that on June 30th he was going to have surgery on his left hand. He said that from playing for so many years he has some hand issues and hopes that the surgery will get him full ability. We didn't notice any slowing down in those distinctive Stax bass lines during the set.
The Musical Notes
Keep on Pushing was the biggest album of their career for the Impressions. Five singles made the charts from the 1964 album including Keep on Pushing and Amen. The song represents singer/song writer Curtis Mayfield's growing commitment to social and political awareness. This awareness pushed him to write the group's best known song, People Get Ready which was released in 1965.
Despite the many accounts of the behind the scenes battles between director Sam Peckinpah and MGM, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid yielded a good sound track album by Bob Dylan. Dylan's acting in the film didn't show up for long in the final theatre release (the director's cut was too long for the studio), but Knockin' on Heaven's Door gave the Duluth native one of his biggest hits. Knockin' on Heaven's Door was also a successful song for Eric Clapton. Many artists have covered the song and Guns N' Roses had a number 2 hit in England with it in 1991. In an interesting musical twist, multi-instrumentalist Booker T (not Duck Dunn) played bass on the Dylan recording of Knockin' On Heaven's Door.
Kryptonite was the first hit single for the Escatawpa, Mississippi band, 3 Doors Down. The song received such wide spread radio airplay that it propelled the album, The Better Life, to sell six million copies.
The Photo Notes
The picture of Vivian's Hart's luminaria and the photo of Booker T and the M.G.'s were taken with an Olympus camera.