“I don’t like being around old people,” he told me.
“But they love you,” I said. “Why don’t you want to see them?”
“Because they’re going to die soon,” he responded.
I told him that death has little to do with age and that I knew more dead young people than I did dead old people, which was true at the time. Old people are the survivors. They’re the ones who didn’t die as young people. They’re the tough survivors. Now, ten year later, my son knows more dead young people than dead old people. His babysitter and several high school friends died from car accidents and several more from drug overdoses. He has lost both grandfathers, an uncle, two great uncles, a second cousin and a great aunt but his dead young friends total more.
When I was a senior in high school I had a morning gym class. It got to the point where every Monday when we’d line up on the asphalt for class we’d all ask among ourselves, “Who died over the weekend?” It was that bad. At least four people died in my senior year, mostly from car crashes although one guy I knew since fourth grade died of stomach cancer. That was particularly sad as he knew how sick he was, dropped out of school and would drive by occasionally on his new motorcycle. When we no longer heard the roar of his 750 while out playing basketball and softball we knew his end was near, or had already arrived.
The Tooners’ song Seance was inspired by the observation that there seemed to be classmates who, while barely knowing of the existence of the recently deceased, were the most bereaved at his or her passing. At the time this seemed to me a blatant, shameless and disgusting attempt to draw the attention from the recently departed to themselves. Now, to be fair, it may have been that these people were simply much more emotional than I and were genuinely distressed by the passing of one of their peer group even if he or she didn’t personally know the person. In the animated music video version of the song the protagonist is annoyed by the insensitivity of the deceased’s friends who seem to be using the occasion of the funeral and subsequent seance to catch up and reminisce rather than mourn.
Seance, the song, was also inspired by my attending an actual seance. When my old friend, fellow band member and vocalist on the song, Greg Piper, was turning nineteen his parents took him to a seance for his birthday. Because of my interest, even back then as a teenage, of the metaphysical, they invited me along to this unusual birthday party. I’ve asked Greg to ask his parents, he still has both, to give me any information they can remember about the seance. When I get that I’ll also tell you my memories of what was the weirdest birthday party I’ve ever attended. This was not a fun, birthday party event but a real and very serious professional seance.