A life too short

For a few years in a row I have tried to explain the story of Grégory Lemarchal.  Once you have seen the young man perform, you will immediately recognize the tragedy of this tale. You may then understand why fighting the battle Gregory was forced to fight is one of the saddest tragedies our youth can face. When I wrote this three years ago, Gregory was new to me.  I had just discovered his story and the odyssey launched by his dream to sing.  Now at the 8th Anniversary of his passing (April 30), I would like to introduce you, or reintroduce you, to this talented Frenchman: 

Grégory was not even two years old when he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. That is a genetic disease of the lungs primarily, also the liver and intestines. Its name comes from the scarring and cyst formations in the pancreas. CF can rob you of your breath and then your life.

While he did consider sports journalism as a career path, Grégory decided to pursue a singing career. Perhaps some would see that as a futile choice for a boy suffering with cystic fibrosis, but it was his real passion. In 2003 he was involved in musical comedy theater, but his big break came in 2004 when he joined in the competition on Star Academy. That would be the French version of the Idol programs in the UK and America. While on the show he got the chance to sing with Yannik Noah, father of a well-known Chicago basketball player. Grégory won the competition in a final landslide vote an American politician can really appreciate. It launched him on a red-hot career.

Grègory had become himself, the person he wanted to be. Appropriately his first album was Je deviens moi (I become me). Television shows, personal appearances and even a concert tour followed the release of his first single and its radio popularity. A live album and DVD of his concerts was an immediate hit in Europe. Music videos of his popular singles were released and can be found on You Tube. He sang mostly in his native French, but also English and Italian. His good looks, great vocal range, albums, dvd, and European popularity would make it seem like he had it all, but he was being robbed. CF was taking his breath away. In 2007 Grégory said his doctor ordered him to take a few weeks off to recuperate. He died waiting for a lung transplant. (He was 23.)

The story would just be ultra sad if we ended it there, but it did not end. Besides the outpouring of emotion in France, a posthumous album earned money for the Association Grégory Lemarchal to aid those with the disease. His sister published a photo book “Mon frère, l’artiste” of her pictures of her brother with the proceeds going to the cause. His mother wanted to put Grégory’s earnings after his death into helping those with CF, so that others would not suffer like her son did. Millions and millions have been raised, and yet young people are still dying.

If you know someone who is suffering or has passed you may want to consider helping here: http://www.cff.org/ Charitable giving is down but the need remains. It is tragic to lose anyone so young. Grégory’s short but successful career helps to shine a light on that.
I learned of his songs five years after his death, but like many, I wonder how great a career he might have had. I also wonder if the bright future of many others can be saved.

From Olympia 06, the only live album and DVD.  This tour was cut short, as was Gregory’s life. It is not high quality but the entire concert is here and begins with Je deviens moi.

You, A Liberation Lyric

Rich Paschall:

Yes, this is my National Poetry Month contribution.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

by Rich Paschall

Since it is National Poetry Month, I thought I would share my favorite lyric from the musical Liberation. Recently, we told you the story of Liberation – A Musical That Almost Was and the book’s co-author, Betty. I mentioned that Betty’s favorite song was called “I Believe” and I posted that lyric over on Sunday Night Blog.

My favorite song was the only one not expressly written for the show. It was written in the time period of the original script and only 20 years later did we decide that a secondary character needed a song. He represented the only love interest in the show, but we were concerned about writing a new song in the style of the original show. One day I played a recording for Betty without comment hoping she would say what I wanted to hear, “Ray’s song!” And so it is.

Perhaps…

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SENDING A LETTER HOME – RICH PASCHALL

Rich Paschall:

As mentioned last Sunday, here is my own letter to my younger self.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward. I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here over a year ago following the inspiration given by that book.  I must confess that it was much harder to read now than it was to write it then.  Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it again.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good…

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A glance backward

What advice do we have for our younger friends?  What advice would we have for our younger selves?  Will our young friends listen?  Would we have listened?  While reading The Letter Q, I gave some thought to passing back advice.

Your younger self

Recently another blogger suggested a book to read this month that is a collection of letters that writers would send to their younger selves, if only they could.  Some letters are just a couple of pages.  Some are a bit longer.  Some of these writers may be well-known to you.  Others may be interesting just as a study of what an older person still sees of his younger life.  Although I am not yet far into the book, I can already tell that theses letter will touch me.  I can feel the emotion that I am reading.  I suspect that is because I am looking back over my shoulder at the same time.

If you were to write such a letter today, at the age you are now, to what age would you send it?  Would it be you at 12?  14?  18?  Older or younger?  When would you need your advice the most?  I guess it should be no surprise that many of these letters were sent to teenage years.  Perhaps it is when growing pains are felt the most.  Maybe it is when young love hurts the most.  It could be when you were terrorized by bullies, parents or supposed friends the most.  It might be at the time you needed advice the most, but you trusted no one to give it to you.  Would you even have taken it if it came from a more experienced you?

It seems pointless to me to send back a letter to a good time.  What would you say?  “I am glad you had such a great time at the picnic?”  No, that has just melted into a fond memory.  At your current age, you would probably want to send yourself advice to help see you through a problem.  You might want to send words of encouragement for times when you may have wanted to give up, or worse.  An early letter in the book is sent to a child alone and crying in a park.  She hopes to be murdered there because she thinks it can not possibly be worse than the hurt she is feeling.  Of course, you would go back and comfort that child, if only you could.

Few fall in love with their high school sweetheart, get married right out of high school and live happily ever after.  Even Cinderella had a tough life before her prince came along, and so it is with fairy tales.  Most of us may have thought that we were falling in love in high school, but we are really just falling and needed to get back up.  It does not look that way in the isolation of your teenage room, however.  What words would have helped you then?  You got little comfort from the one you longed for and had little or no desire to tell your parents, teachers or anyone more than 25 years old.  Do you now have the words for your younger self?  How would you help yourself through teenage angst?

If the thought of living without your “true love” was scary, I suppose life after school held a bit of panic for many as well.  “What will I do?  Will I make enough money?  Can I support a family?  Can I support myself?”  What answers can you send back to those questions?  Somewhere between 10 and 20 lie the years that produce emotional changes, doubts and questions.  Can you write the letter today that could have helped you then?

In looking through these letters, I think it is fair to say that people are writing back to what they see as a defining moment in their young lives.  While some may see that as 12, others are writing to 18.  Perhaps they only wish to send letters to a time that today’s knowledge could help.  Maybe we can not even find the words for certain moments in our young existence.  Some can only say that he or she will have to work through the problems with the knowledge from your older self that it gets better.

Awkward, yet emotionally charged, are those that struggled through their sexuality, the questioning, “Am I loveable?  Am I attractive?  Am I gay?”  We may spend many youthful hours looking in the mirror and asking questions.  We may spend many more avoiding the mirror because we do not like what we see.  Some years ago I spent a lot of time reassuring a handsome teenager (not me, btw) that he was indeed handsome.  I am not sure he believed me then, but he is much more self-assured now.  What could you tell yourself about those self doubts?  What would I tell myself?

This book was not just for those who “made it through the rain,” and came out the other side a stronger person.  It is also for those who are struggling now.  The Letter Q gives half of its royalties to The Trevor Project to help reach youth in crisis.  There are those that desperately need advice.  Let’s hope they are around to send word back to their younger selves that “it gets better.”

Next week: My letter to my younger self.

THE CALL – RICHARD PASCHALL

Rich Paschall:

A short story for your Sunday night.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

By Richard Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Sunday was the day to stay near the telephone, the computer too for that matter.  Robert was not about to go anywhere before receiving his phone call.  He always stayed where he could hear the phone.  The computer was also a possibility for calls but in truth Robert only received one call on it and that was more in the way of a test.  His son, Corey, set him up with Skype and then called him when he got home just so they could test it out.  That was the only time Corey called him via Skype in the six months since their brief trial run.  Now he either called on the landline or not at all.

96-PhoneAndComputer-1

Robert tried diligently to be a good father to Corey after his divorce from Corey’s mom.  Corey was in his mid teens then and the boy seemed…

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THE MOST IMPORTANT STORY

Rich Paschall:

With so few of our “Greatest Generation” still around, I thought it would be a good time to run this again, before it’s too late.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

By Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

A few thoughts on YOUR story

For the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to post a few small works of fiction.  They were just little stories that I hoped would make a point.  While they are no one’s story in particular, they all contain elements that are familiar to me.  I filled in the details with characters and descriptions that would make a story.  That was the fun part of telling a tale that in some ways I know well.  If you read any of them these on past Sundays, I hope you found some enjoyment.  I would like to recommend to you now a more important story.  It is one that only you can fill in the details and it is imperative that you do it soon, before the chance slips away.  That story is your story.

1930s Country-Road

How often have you wondered…

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CHICAGO “NOW”

Rich Paschall:

Following up last week’s reblog about Chicago the band, here is another about the latest album.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

AKA Chicago XXXVI, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Chicago, the band, has done something most older bands are reluctant to do.  They have put out a new studio album of original music entitled “Chicago NOW.” Legendary bands with staying power such as Chicago make their living off their faithful fans at live performances and sales of older albums.  They know that only a select handful of older bands can actually sell new singles and albums.  The buying public for new music is mainly in the 13 to 34 age bracket and many of them tend to stream music rather than actually buy it.  The main buyers of CDs are in the 45 and over crowd but they are buying “catalog” music, or that is to say, classics from their favorite artists of the past.

Studio time can be expensive, both in terms of the studio cost and the lost concert performance time.  A…

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AMERICA – Rich Paschall

Rich Paschall:

With all the political nonsense I have been seeing on social media and in the so-called news, I thought it would be a good time to reblog this.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

A view from Chicago, the band

Chicago has been around a long time. No, I don’t mean the city, I mean the band. In 1967, five guys from DePaul University recruited a sixth from Roosevelt University and started a band known as The Big Thing. Soon they recruited a tenor, moved to California, and changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority. In 1968 they released a self-titled, double album that included some of their biggest hits and led them down the road to a Hall of Fame career.  After threat of legal action by the home town transit authority, the band shortened its name and the rest is pop history.

Their pop, rock, jazz infused sound was ground breaking.  In an era of bands that included a guitar player, bass player, and a drummer, Chicago’s music majors were letting a trumpet, a trombone and a saxophone lead the way.  It was a sound that led to…

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A BOUNTIFUL LIFE

Rich Paschall:

A Sunday story, I think.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

A short story of gratefulness from Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Max had to get an early start on Monday.  Three times a month it was the most important day of the week and he did not want to be late.  It was quite the walk to the Methodist church but he felt he was up to it.  Anyway, he did not want to ride part of the way on the bus as that seemed a waste of money.  If he had a good haul, however, he would definitely consider public transportation on the way back.  Even though Max was not a Methodist, he was headed to the Methodist church.

Next door to the church stood a small wooden building.  It was painted grey, like the church building, and it seemed too small for most uses.  No one recalls why the building was there originally, but now it served as the neighborhood…

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A TRIP TO ALSACE

Along the French and German border, a photo gallery

Last week we made no stop at the Sunday Night Blog because we were stopping at sites in France while visiting friends.  I have made similar trips in recent years to sites in the Alsace region of France.  The reason for these trips is not just the scenery or historic sites.  It was something even more important.  This was explained on SERENDIPITY last Sunday in “Where Would You Travel?”

The trip went from Chicago to New York with a five hour lay over.  I explained to my friend that spending vacation with him was the only reason I would spend 5 hours in JFK airport.  From there it was on to Frankfurt, Germany and a two hour lay over waiting for the Lufthansa bus to Strasbourg, France.  The bus arrived near the Strasbourg train station two and one half hours later.  There my friend collected me for our trip back to his town.

You can go to Paris and connect by train to Strasbourg.  The trip is just as long and I did not believe the connection would be as easy.  Now there is a train from Charles De Gaulle airport direct to the Strasbourg station which means I would arrive at the same spot.  They did not have this in past years so perhaps it is a better way to go.  I will let price and connection time determine which airport I use next time I go to Alsace.  Whenever that may be will not be soon enough while good times with friends await.

Click on any image for a larger view and go through the gallery.