Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reaction to "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry

Last night at the CMA Awards, The Band Perry won Best Single of the Year for the song, "If I die Young."

The song was released in the Mainstream Top 40 in May, a little over a week after I arrived home from my 40-day hospital stay. Somehow, despite its triple platinum success, I didn't hear it for the first time until this fall. It came on the radio as I was driving home from an appointment with my oncologist. I sobbed as I listened to the words:

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

In an interview with The Boots, lead vocalist Kimberly Perry said, "We wanted to write a song about making the most of whatever time you're given -- whether it's two years, twenty years or two hundred. We really have gotten to live and love at our young ages. 'If I Die Young,' for us, is about if it all ends at this moment, look at what we've gotten to do. Whatever time we're given will be absolutely enough as long as we make the most of it."

Apparently, the vast majority of people view the song as romantic and positive. When coupled with the commentary about her purpose for writing it, I agree. Based on the lyrics alone, however, I don't find the song romantic at all. From my particular vantage point, as a cancer fighter, its sounds a lot like giving up.

There's nothing charming or glorious about dying young. Cancer patients and others afflicted with serious diseases endure great physical and emotional pain to avoid "The sharp knife of a short life." We don't want to be buried in satin or put to rest on a bed of roses. We want to live to 90.

I am not a quitter, nor is any cancer patient I've had the pleasure of knowing this year. On an office door outside my high school swimming pool, there was a sketch of a crane and a frog. In it the crane has the frog in its mouth, but the frog is choking the crane to prevent the crane from swallowing him. The caption above it reads, "Never Give Up!" That depiction of a fighter fills me with more hope than the CMA's Song of the Year.

I can understand how Kimberly Perry, as a healthy young woman, was able to think of death in terms of metaphors that use rainbows and pearls. And I agree with her intended message, that life should be lived to the fullest. But personally, I'd rather picture myself as the frog, refusing to be swallowed, than as someone buried in silk, who believed she had "just enough time."