“Signs” by Andrew Davie

Written By: TBF Ambassador, Andrew Davie: Author. Former recruiter, theater, finance, and teacher. HHHG and AFOF shows. MA Counseling ’23. Ruptured Brain Aneurysm Survivor 

The week after I turned 40, I had a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Two years later, the world experienced the COVID-19 Pandemic. Following that (I’m uncertain of the exact time), my mother was diagnosed with ALS. The film Signs, by M. Night Shyamalan, is about an alien invasion of the Earth. If that were to happen within the next five years, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. 

The film stars Mel Gibson as an Episcopalian priest who has lost his faith after his wife’s death. This won’t be a review of the film’s merits, but I will discuss some of the details. The title of the film could apply to many different facets of the film, but one theory is that it addresses various examples throughout the film of synchronicity, the Jungian concept that “describes circumstances that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection.” 

For example, throughout the movie, Gibson’s character’s daughter keeps asking to drink water, but each time she’s given a glass, she finds something wrong with the taste. Eventually, the house has accumulated dozens of full glasses of water. Later, they discover the water is lethal to aliens. Since there are glasses of the stuff already positioned about the house, the aliens are easy to dispel. Now, the obvious question; why did aliens invade a planet that’s 71% water? OK, I said I wasn’t going to critique the film, and I just did, but come on! 

Regardless, in the last few months, my mother’s condition has gotten worse, necessitating 24-hour care. After considering various options, it made the most sense to move back in with my parents so that I could help out. The fascinating element of all of this is how it seemed predestined. For example, I’m currently taking classes at school, most of which can be attended virtually, and though I’m counseling clients at my internship, that’s also exclusively virtual. I don’t have a spouse or children, and most of my creative endeavors include projects that I can complete on my laptop. Plus, I’m able to ease the burden by being here. 

Most importantly, as a result of my aneurysm, the way I process emotion has changed. I don’t experience joy the same way, but more importantly, sadness doesn’t overwhelm me. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, but it will also be able to prevent caregiver burnout. I like to think of an analogy of a poker game. I’ve been given certain cards. While they may not be the cards I’ve wanted, all I can do is make the best hand possible. There was a very good chance my aneurysm could have killed me, so whatever I do with my life from here on out is a bonus. I’ve already “sucked the marrow out of life” as often as I could: I grew up in New York City, recorded music, published fiction and non-fiction, taught in Macau on a Fulbright Grant, worked in finance, drank Hmong wine, made from a still in Laos (It tasted like Manischewitz), won 2 harness-track races (I accompanied the driver). 

The other day I watched part of Behind the Music about the band Ratt and former lead guitarist Robbin Crosby had been diagnosed with HIV. He asked that no one cry at his funeral since he’d lived the life of ten men. Sorry, that example probably came out of left field, but it seemed pertinent. 

Either way, as Joe Strummer once wrote, “The Future is Unwritten,” and in the film Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams says, “The powerful play goes on, and you get to contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” Well, I don’t know. It’s taken a long time to become comfortable with uncertainty, but now, five years into my 40s and recovery, it’s not as frightening as it had been. If I see my nephew leaving glasses of water around the house, I might feel differently, but the powerful play goes on, and I’ve got a verse to think about. 

Read Andrew Davie’s Story here.

Learn more about Andrew Davie and explore his writings, music, Interviews/Publicity/Presentations/Awards, and more on his website here.