Fiona Apple: Appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time

Singer Fiona Apple and Janet

Singer Fiona Apple has canceled her scheduled tour of South America to take care of her belovèd dog, Janet, in the pet's last days. She wrote this letter to her fans explaining why.

I have a dog, Janet, and she's been ill for about 2 years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She's almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then — an adult, officially — and she was my kid.

She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face.

She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders.

She's almost 14 and I've never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She's a pacifist.

Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact. We've lived in numerous houses, and joined a few makeshift families, but it's always really been just the two of us.

She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.

She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me, all the time we recorded the last album.

The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she's used to me being gone for a few weeks, every 6 or 7 years.

She has Addison's Disease, which makes it more dangerous for her to travel, since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.

Despite all this, she's effortlessly joyful & playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago. She is my best friend, and my mother, and my daughter, my benefactor, and she's the one who taught me what love is.

I can't come to South America. Not now. When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference.

She doesn't even want to go for walks anymore.

I know that she's not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That's why they are so much more present than people.

But I know she is coming close to the time where she will stop being a dog, and start instead to be part of everything. She'll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.

I just can't leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I'm afraid she'll die and I won't have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.

Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes just to decide what socks to wear to bed.

But this decision is instant.

These are the choices we make, which define us. I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love & friendship.

I am the woman who stays home, baking Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable & comforted & safe & important.

Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life that keeps us feeling terrified & alone. I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time. I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.

I need to do my damnedest, to be there for that.

Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I've ever known.

When she dies.

So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and I am revelling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel. And I'm asking for your blessing.

I'll be seeing you.



Bo Ya and Zhong Ziqi; Hölty: When I am dead, hang up my little harp

Bo Ya 俞伯牙. A famous lute-player of old, who when young studied under a teacher known as Cheng Lian. The latter carried him to the Isles of the Blest, in order to get his musical sense improved. He was afterwards thrown into the society of a wood-cutter, named Zhong Ziqi 鐘子期, who was such an excellent connoisseur of music that when Bo Ya played hills he could see Mount Tai rise up before his eyes, and when he played water he could see the headlong torrent dashing down. At Zhong's death, Bo Ya broke his lute and never played again.

   --Herbert A. Giles (1845-1935), A Chinese Biographical Dictionary (pub. 1898, Kelly and Walsh, Shanghai)

This is a very famous story in China and Japan (where the two friends are called Hakuga and Shoshiki and feature in the annual Gion Matsuri parade in Kyoto). It is originally from Liezi (列御寇 or 列子). Here is more about the story and the music.




Friends, when I am dead, hang up
my little harp behind the altar,
where the wreaths of many dead young girls are shimmering.

The friendly sexton will then show visitors
the little harp, rustling with the red ribbon,
wound around the harp,
that flutters under the golden strings.

Often at sunset, he says in wonder, the strings
sound all alone, as soft as the hum of bees;
the children playing in the churchyard
heard it and saw how the wreaths were trembling.

        --Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty (1748-1776)


Ihr Freunde, hänget, wann ich gestorben bin,
die kleine Harfe hinter dem Altar auf,
wo an der Wand die Todtenkränze
manches verstorbenen Mädchens schimmern.

Der Küster zeigt dann freundlich dem Reisenden
die kleinen Harfe, rauscht mit dem rothen Band,
das an der Harfe festgeschlungen,
unter den golden Saiten flattert.

Oft, sagt er staunend, tönen im Abendroth
von selbst die Saiten, leise wie Bienenton;
die Kinder, auf dem Kirchhof spielend,
hörtens und sahn, wie die Kränze bebten.


Hymn: Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side


Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

                --This famous hymn was written in German by Katharina von Schlegel (1697-1768) and translated into English by Jane Laurie Borthwick (1813-1897). Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) wrote the music .

From The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections, by Tom Brokaw (1940-)
[Kay Voss, a retired businessman in Michigan, wrote the following:]

"I served in the Eighth Air Force as a co-pilot on a B-17, flying 31 missions....I remember the chapel service we attended just before our first mission. The chaplain prayed for our safe return, and the last song we sang, 'Be still, my soul,' returned to me many, many times in the uncertain days of combat."

"This hymn was re­port­ed­ly the fav­or­ite of Er­ic Lid­dell, the ath­lete who be­came fa­mous in the 1924 Olym­pics for re­fus­ing to run on the Sab­bath (see the mo­vie Char­i­ots of Fire). Lid­dell lat­er be­came a mis­sion­ary in Chi­na, and was im­pris­oned dur­ing World War II. He is said to have taught this hymn to others in the pri­son camp (where he eventually died of a brain tumor)."  (From the website cyberhymnal)