This past Saturday, October 6th, MC and I lost someone we loved very much both personally and musically, musician Nick Curran.
Do you believe in astrology? I'm not usually a big proponent of chicanery in general, and lord knows it's a "professional field" mostly full of folks who are getting paid to bullshit. However, I've had some experience with people who've made the study of astrology's principles their life's work; people with the talent or skill to interpret astrological factors in a way that stands up to healthy skepticism. And I'm certainly open to there being aspects of the known universe that haven't yet been scientifically recorded. After all, Galileo didn't know about the existence of quantum mechanics. But I am aware that my feeling on the matter doesn't appear consistent with a lot of my other views.
Anyway, the reason I mention it is because MC and I are both Libras. And so was Nick. There's been an aspect in Libra for the past three years -- the presence of Saturn. This presence represents the hardest, most unforgivingly brutal life lessons, challenges, and obstacles. But Saturn is a teacher. The whole point of all the trials it puts you through is that all they require of you is the strength and ability you have, but have not yet utilized. It makes you into the kind of resilient, capable person you always wanted to be. Projects undertaken with Saturn looming over you are the hardest things you'll ever try to accomplish, but they'll also be the most successful, and make you the best version of yourself. They are forged in fire.
MC and I fell in love in the Fall of 2009, exactly when Saturn entered Libra. At the same time, Nick started to experience the pain in his throat and mouth that would soon be diagnosed as cancer. Over the past three years, Nick, MC and I all went on a very big journey.
For me, it involved jumping out of the extended adolescence of my 20's. I became a real partner in ways that I never understood in previous relationships, as well as an ecstatically blessed step-parent. But with MC's family in crisis over his divorce and understandable but unfounded concerns driving many people in our lives to the emotional brink, I was happy to discover and prove how capable I was as an accountable member of more than one family, not to mention an unofficial counselor, teacher, lawyer, and financial analyst, as MC and I built our life together. My calm-in-a-crisis nature was tested, and as I stand here today, I'm grateful for having the chance to learn that no matter how hysteric or scary the circumstances, my hands, both literally and figuratively, don't shake.
For MC, it involved getting divorced, changing his whole life, dealing with demons and issues he'd let fester beneath the surface for years and years, not just in the relationship that was ending, but even further back to the past experiences that led him there. We both learned how to be resilient, compassionate, and unbreakable in the face of difficulty, and MC rose to a level of confidence and capability that I never thought possible in a man. He discovered for the first time in his life that he knew what was best for himself, and how to sternly but lovingly refuse to back down from pressure or shrink from necessary conflict. MC also learned that no amount of judgement or preconceived notions from others could get between him and his daughter, that he knew what it meant to parent as an active verb rather than a passive one, and that he would go through anything for the promise of modeling a deeply happy relationship to her as what she can expect for herself one day -- even if that meant breaking the promise that brought her into his life in the first place.
And Nick stared down aggressive cancer of the tongue. Even as he was releasing his fifth album, Reform School Girl, he was undergoing chemotherapy and confronting the very real possibility of dying before he reached his 40's. He'd been playing professional guitar since his teens, he toured with the likes of Ronnie Dawson and Kim Lenz before releasing his first solo album when he was 23, and he had never once let his taste or superhuman musical ability become stagnant. As he organically moved through influences from 80's metal to 50's rockabilly to jump blues to 60's Motown, he trusted his abilities, and bet on his fans following him though whatever natural progression his creative life led him toward. And he bet right; even the most strident genre-purist couldn't argue with Nick's indisputably genuine personality, incredible skill, and relentlessly positive attitude. Which is exactly what came out in full force when he started fighting his disease.
Nick stood up to the terror and hardship that threatened him with determination and heart, even as he dealt not only with his own fears, but with the heartbreak of watching the people he loved fear for him. Nick was so naturally courageous and irreverent in the face of adversity that he tattooed "Fuck Cancer" on his wrists, and when it eventually became clear that his cancer wasn't responding to chemo, he found the best alternative health program for his type of cancer and dove in with his usual brand of impetuous optimism. The reality that he might lose this fight was always there, but it was never a surprise that the fearless way Nick looked at life was the same way he looked at death.
It was, however, a surprise when he died.
Saturn officially left Libra on October 6th, 2012. All week, MC and I had been signing and sealing a lot of legal documents that officially signaled the "process" we'd been through as finally complete. On October 6th itself, MC and I both found ourselves having some unexpected conversations with loved ones in our lives, who simultaneously wanted to tell us that they love and support us in our life together, and believe without a doubt that MC made the right choice for himself and his daughter.
When we came home, we discovered that Nick had passed away that morning.
Whether you want to see Saturn as an as-yet unproven vibratory influence on the lives of the people it effects, or just another symbol humans use to explain the craziness of life on earth, it's a useful rhetorical tool when it comes to stuff like this. If the things Saturn teaches us and the hardships it makes us live through make us a hundred times stronger and more prepared to succeed on the path ahead, then Nick's lessons upstage ours by a lot. In a scant 35 years, he'd accomplished and created more than most people do if they live to be 100, and when it came down to the battle with cancer that would be the theme of his three years under Saturn's tutelage, Nick became strong enough to prosper in a future that's so great, it can't even be contained on this Earth. It turns out, he was made of better stuff than the rest of us all along.
It probably goes without saying at this point that MC and I wouldn't be who we are musically without Nick. But who Nick was as a person is the real source of joy that everyone around him got to take away from knowing him. In a way, it feels like the three of us all went on a journey together. But he was the one whose story proved transcendent, and worthy of a place in our collective conscious.
Despite such beautiful truths, his passing hurts. A lot.