Post 8: "Mandy"
“Have courage for whatever comes.” Mother Teresa
In January of 1975, a haunting ballad called “Mandy” hit #1 on the pop charts, soon followed by “It’s a Miracle,” then “Could It Be Magic” and “I Write the Songs.” Manilow Mania swept the nation. It certainly captured my adolescent heart. My cohorts were swooning over Leif Garrett, Shaun or David Cassidy; the guys from the Bay City Rollers, or Andy Gibb. I threw my lot in with Barry.
My best friend Sharon, a true partner in crime, couldn’t bear to see me pining away. So she took action. She decided we’d start a Cleveland Barry Manilow Fan Club. That was our best shot at meeting Barry, she declared. She had it all planned out: I would be the President of the Cleveland Barry Manilow Fan Club; she would be Vice President.
Simple as that.
In April 1975 when “It’s a Miracle” hit #1, my brother Sean, 27, recently separated from his second wife, died from an intentional overdose of drugs and alcohol. He came over to the house early that chilly Sunday morning. He was agitated and wanted to see mom. Alone.
It was a Palm Sunday, and I was dragging my feet. I planned to attend the noon mass and postponed to the last minute to get ready. I may have even planned to miss church by “accidental oversight.” I was in the kitchen, making roses for my cake decorating class. I had rows of wilted icing flowers marching across the kitchen table. I licked my sticky fingers while I eavesdropped on the conversation mom and Sean were having in the living room. I stood there with my pastry bag in midair; dripping a trail of red goo, like snail slime, on the kitchen floor. As he started to talk Sean was clearly drunk and slurred his words.
“I can’t go on. I just don’t want to die alone….”
“Why are you talking like this? How much have you been drinking? It’s not even ten in the morning!” mom demanded. Sean mentioned a sleazy Lake Avenue bar he had drinking at with dad the night before.
“I told him how much I was hurting. Do you know what he told me to do? Eat some chicken soup! Chicken soup!”
“Enough with the chicken soup! What did you take this morning?”
Sean mentioned names of medicines that I didn’t recognize.
“How much did you take? When did you drink last?” mom demanded to know.
“All of it. I took it all.” Sean responded. His voice grew more distant, as mom’s voice grew pressing and urgent.
Then came a sound of an ominous thud. Mom screamed. I dropped my pastry bag and ran into the living room. Sean was on the living room floor out cold. “Get a cold towel!” she yelled as she ran for the telephone. I quickly got a dampened facecloth from the downstairs bathroom and ran over to Sean, prone on the floor. I squeezed some cold water on his face.
I scrubbed his face as if the spreading grayish tone could be wiped clean.
It is hard to say how much time it took for the paramedics to arrive. Or if mom even returned.
The only presence I felt at my side was Death. It was a palpating, vibrant force like a tornado had just ripped the roof off the house. My brother lingered between two worlds. I had only sensed this presence before at my grandparent’s wakes, lurking in the overpowering smell of flowers. Now I knew what it was.
Now calling this presence, Death, at that moment, sounded so harsh and cold. Grim Reaper, the alternative name that is often used, also seemed out of place to me. The common image of the skeletal, sinister, hooded figure with scythe in hand did not fit the profile of the attending presence in our living room that morning. There was something majestic and eternal as well as terrible in this Presence. An Angel of Death, I learned to call this presence the Archangel Azrael. The Archangel arrived to get a job done. The Archangel was not unsympathetic but not swayed either by tears and pleas for extensions with regard to extraneous circumstances.
So the Archangel took Sean then and there conditionally, because Sean’s heart was revived. He was transported to the hospital where he remained comatose.
Looking back I doubt his soul ever returned.
Give the gift of music to the next generation through donations to:
The Manilow Music Project
8295 South La Cienega Boulevard
Inglewood, CA 90301
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