Rarely is it said that one artist covering a song originally recorded by another artist is superior to the original. It might not even be true, but Sarah Brightman's recording of Who Wants To Live Forever comes very close to the mark. Of course, like many, my opinion is likely severely jaded by circumstances surrounding my encounter with the song.

There's no time for us
There's no place for us
What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us

The amazing thing about my friend Don was that he knew he was running out of time and embraced life in the meantime. In the two years we had worked together he had suffered a heart attack and made several trips to the hospital with other maladies. All this for a man in his early fifties who never drank liquor, never smoked cigarettes, never did drugs of any kind and only ate food of a healthy variety. His only rebellion against healthy living was an occasional "nice piece of cake."

Yet this man, who was a practicing Mormon and a child of East End London, had his contradictions. He moved from England to America to be with the woman he loved and left behind family and friends. His idols were British rock icons. In the early 1970s he was known to hang around outside of Apple Records hoping to catch a glimpse of The Beatles. George Harrison was his favorite Beatle, but when he did stumble upon George one day he could only manage to ask, "How has John been?" A couple years later he would work in the delivery business and one of his deliveries was to the home of Jack Bruce. Jack wasn't home, but his wife greeted Don warmly and took him on a tour of her husband's memorabilia. She offered Don one of Jack's guitars, telling him that Jack would never miss it, but Don turned her down. He felt funny about stealing a guitar from a man he considered to be a musical god.

Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever . . . . . ?
Oh ooo oh
There's no chance for us
It's all decided for us
This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us

Don worked with me on the night shift at our less than impressive workplace. The last night he spent on the job he was agitated by accusations by the manager that he had been sleeping on the job. He had, but you see, he was never all that well and the sleep helped him see another day. On his last night of work he promised he would "milk my illnesses for a very long time." He would show them not to mess with him.

We also used to trade a lot of CDs and listen to the music we recommended to each other. The CD he gave me that night was a Sarah Brightman collection that featured this song. A week later we learned he had leukemia. After three months of weekly visits to him in the hospital he told us he was going home to die.

Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever
Who dares to love forever
Oh oo woh, when love must die

We considered it an honor to be considered amongst the handful of people he insisted on seeing the morning of his death. There was his family and those who were very close to him. In all, we counted in the single digits, those who walked into the living room and saw this proud man on a hospital bed waiting to die. We clasped his hand. Each of us went up in turn. There were three of us. We were like his American children. Anna went first, she was the youngest child and Don's favored "pet lamb." She cried as she gripped his hand and he tried to comfort her, as the dying will often do with the living. Then Mark went to him, the struggling middle child, always the joker. He didn't know what to say. He had been closer to Don than any of us. I went last, as the eldest child, and took Don's hand in mine. He had but one message for me, to look after Mark, who he called "the boy" and to make sure he didn't make any mistakes he would later regret. I looked him in the eye and he told me with a smile, "but you know all about this don't you? I can tell. Take care of the boy. Take care, my son."

But touch my tears with your lips
Touch my world with your fingertips
And we can have forever
And we can love forever
Forever is our today

We sat outside, alone with our thoughts, three vagrant children smoking cigarettes and unable to look to each other for comfort or answers. We waited for the word. There was a phone call from his daughter in London. She was the last to speak to him and it had been what he waited for. The word came. Don had left us. We put our arms around each other and there were tears. We drove home in silence. There was nothing more to be said. A person can live forever in memory, but in the moment of their passing, there is always grief.

Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever
Forever is our today
Who waits forever anyway?

Lyrics by Brian May
First recorded by Queen in 1986
For the motion picture Highlander

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