One year ago today, I shared a letter on Tumblr. It was a letter I wrote to Kyle Durfey, vocalist of Pianos Become the Teeth. A letter about watching someone you love fade away. A letter about the extraordinary importance of music. At first, I didn’t want to share the letter, because I felt it was quite private. But as I wrote on my Tumblr page a year ago: “Then I thought that what the hell, no one I know follows my tumblr anyway, and if this e-mail can help someone else in any way then it’s fucking worth it. So here we go.”
The Tumblr post has been shared and liked many times since that day. Click here if you want to read the whole thing over at Tumblr (or share it afterwards), or just keep reading here.
This is what I wrote to Kyle:
Since I’m not sure where to start, I’ll just start by saying thank you. Thank you for the songs you’ve written so far. Thank you for sharing your story. It sure has meant a lot to me. Well, more than a lot, I guess.
When I first found out about and heard Pianos Become the Teeth – probably in 2010 when Old Pride was released – my mum had already fought breast cancer for years. At times things were really bad, and I could wake up in the middle of the night wondering if my mum was still alive. Other times, things were alright – at one point doctors even told her that her cancer was gone and we all thought it was finally over. That lasted one summer. When that summer was over the doctors found that my mum’s cancer had spread, again.
Years went by and my mum got new tumors. Her cancer spread to the skeleton. And a while after this, I heard your music for the first time. When I had listened to Old Pride through the Internet, I bought a physical copy of that album as well as Saltwater. At first, hearing you sing about your dad only made me sad. I had never heard such honest and intense songs, performed with such raw emotions. It’s hard to explain. Maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about. Your music is substantial in a way that is pretty rare to me. However; I heard your music and it was really sad. All your words about your dad went straight to my heart. I could apply those words on my own life in a way that I had never been able to apply music to my life before. (By the way, I’m from Sweden, so my English might not be perfect. :)) Even if you’re singing and writing about a different disease, you family’s battle feels very similar to the battle my family has been fighting. I saw my mum fade away, getting thinner and more tired each day. When I had been listening to your records for a while, they didn’t only make me sad anymore. I started feeling comfort. That I wasn’t alone. Of course I had known the whole time that I wasn’t the only one fighting these things, but it was so great that someone had finally made a record on these things. Any time I wanted to, I could just pop your CD in my CD player and feel less alone in that fucking shit.
So, your next album came out. I dreaded that the day might come when I would relate to the songs on The Lack Long After. Your songs about losing your dad and thinking about your mum all alone. That kind of stuff. I listened to your album over and over again, and Liquid Courage immediately became one of my favorite tracks. I felt so sorry for you and your family, while I really really hoped that my mum would stay strong and get more strength and that maybe there was a chance that she could live with her cancer for many many years. Grow old with my dad and meet her future grandchildren. Celebrate with me when I’ve finally made it through all these years at the university.
During the spring of 2012, doctors told my mum that there was hardly anything more to do. They had tried all kinds of different treatments and cytostatic drugs. I think they said something like “We’ve tried all the tools in the toolbox”. In July, mum and dad had been to the doctors again. Dad called me a couple of days later, telling me that things were not good. Mum’s cancer had spread to her lungs and her stomach. She could barely talk anymore because of the tumors on the lungs. Mum and dad hadn’t asked the doctors how much time mum had left, because none of them wanted to know. Maybe years. Maybe not until Christmas. None of us knew. Even if mum had cancer, she had been working the whole time. This was the first time that she actually decided that she had to take time off. She ended projects and cleaned her desk. She told everyone at work that she thought she’d be back by October.
Exactly one month after I had received that call from dad, he called me again. It was August 17, in the morning. He told me that mum had passed away 45 minutes earlier. Mum was 57 years old. I was 22. I never thought I’d be going to my mum’s funeral at age 22. Mums are supposed to live until you have kids of your own and you buy a house and get a job and shit. This will never happen for me. The only thing that happened was that I took the train to the city where my dad still lives and saw my mum lying dead on that same bed that dad still sleeps in. My dad sat beside my mum when she died. She wasn’t in pain. She basically just fell asleep and never woke up again.
Sooner than I had ever thought, I could relate to all your songs on The Lack Long After. And again, your music comforted me. Someone else has been through this. I can go through this, too. It’s okay to miss someone, to be sad. It will always hurt and that is fine. That is what your music has taught me.
Kind of a long e-mail. I just wanted to let you know how PBTT’s music has been with me through the worst years of my life, and how much I appreciate your music. And again, thank you for writing such great songs. I like to write songs, too, and your way of writing lyrics has inspired me a lot to be even more honest and substantial in my writing.
Thanks for your time, Kyle. I’m really looking forward to hearing new songs from you. Hiding is awesome. Never stop writing music.
This is Kyle’s reply:
This was a really heartbreaking email to read but I’m really glad you felt comfortable enough to share and pour your heart out. It’s kind of unreal when you think about it, watching someone die and living without someone you love so much. I’m so thankful and honored that something we wrote could help you through anything like this. It’s a miserable thing and never happens at the right time and you’re entitled to feel however you want about it. But just know those memories you have, even the shitty ones, they’ll stay with you forever and they’ll carry you when you just want to say, “fuck everything.” I’m getting married soon, and it kills me that my dad won’t be there but I know he’ll be there in me, that’s how they stay, ya know? thanks again for writing, time passes and we move on.
I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I posted this on Tumblr. And even more than a year since I wrote those things. It still hurts. A lot. As you probably understand, Pianos have become one of my favorite bands. They’ve become very important to me in an emotional way that maybe no other band has. Not in the same way, at least. Please check out their music. They’re absolutely fantastic.
I just wish I would have had ears for more than what you said
Because I still feel the lack long after