This morning I received a message from my mother that my cousin Tina is being taken off life support at noon today. I can't even remember the last time I saw Tina, or even talked to her - we were teenagers perhaps. I know we played together as toddlers and were both in attendance at the rare Roberts family gatherings. I know she was one of the cousins who stayed up too late in Grandma's living room watching Helter Skelter one Thanksgiving. I believe that she was a year or two older than me. We never spoke outside of these occasions, but I remember writing a letter to her once. We probably have nothing in common other than the fact that our fathers were brothers.
But it makes me so angry because she is too damn young to die.
It also reminds me not to be complacent and makes me even more adamant about my refusal to be one of the poor suckers who waits.
As I was sitting and contemplating the news, I remembered that a few weeks ago I heard Betty Buckley sing a life-affirming Venice. It's from William Finn's Elegies and tells the story of a friend who is dying from AIDS. The chorus of the song is: "My friends, I’m taking you to Venice. Because in Venice everyday life’s a work of art, And must be seen first hand. Life ends, but nothing ends in Venice. Beauty and pleasure is all we can hope to understand. Beauty and pleasure is all we can hope to understand. In Venice, Venice." Betty has a marvelous way of squeezing every ounce of emotion out of every consonant of every lyric, and I felt the anger, sadness, love and joy.
And I think of every day and how lucky I am to deal with just regular old life, the MTA, new eye glasses that still haven't arrived or assholes at work. I'm lucky I can go and sit through a long, shitty production of Manon at the Met Opera or a production of the musical Carrie that perhaps takes itself a little too seriously.
There is much to love about everything I get to do or choose to do and can do every goddamn day.
I can love a Sunday that starts with a Cuban lunch with a great friend and ends with serendipidously seeing Mary Louise Wilson nonchalantly comfort her grandson as he silently mourns his friend just by being present in the play 4000 Miles at Lincoln Center Theatre.
I can look forward to going to a recording session of a cabaret album tonight by a woman who is normally a butterfly in the opera. I can look forward to the upcoming Live from Lincoln Center in which Renée Fleming will perform a heartpounding rendition of Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915. I can look forward to going to the Bruce Springsteen concert with my great friends Sally and Kari at the Garden.
I can look forward to going down to Washington on the train to see the world premier of Positions 1956 directed by my dear friend Noah Himmelstein at Urban Arias. I can look forward to going to Washington again this summer to see Kate Baldwin be thrilling in The Music Man at Arena Stage and even Donna Murphy finally do a solo concert at the Kennedy Center in the fall.
I can start thinking about all of the operas, concerts and shows I'll book over the next year. I can continue planning a summer vacation with my nephew. I can think about planning a trip to Bruges with my friend Kari. I can look forward to friends who will visit me in New York soon and later.
Best of all, I can just live this day and see what else happens. I can hope and dream and celebrate and live. So, my friends, do me a favor but mostly do yourself a favor: LIVE, LIVE, LIVE!