“Who am I? [I’m] just a skinny shy guy with a standard face. But music has breathed new life into me, given energy to my soul and created a miracle greater than I ever expected.”
Those were some of the last words Chrisye said during his long struggle with cancer. The legendary singer one of Indonesia’s biggest musicians died more than two years ago, but his memory still lives in the hearts of his family, friends and fans.
Writer Alberthiene Endah has written Chrisye’s life story in The Last Words of Chrisye. Alberthiene has previously penned biographies of several of public figures, such as singer Krisdayanti, fashion designer Anne Avantie, lawyer Dwi Ria Latifa and movie and soap-opera producer Raam Punjabi.
Last Words is a sequel of sorts to Chrisye: Sebuah Memoar Musikal (Chrisye: A Musical Memoir), which was released in 2007. While the first book focuses more on Chrisye’s musical career, the second book reveals the last years of Chrisye’s life.
After a long, personal 22-page prologue, Alberthiene starts her first chapter with an account of Chrisye’s initial setback.
The singer collapsed at his home and was taken to the hospital for treatment. Days passed, but doctors could not discover the cause of his illness.
It was the beginning of a series of frustrating moments in the life of Yanti Noor, Chrisye’s wife, a housewife and mother of four.
Yanti, who had relied on Chrisye for everything, suddenly had to handle everything herself — from household affairs to her husband’s medical treatment to the children’s school fees. She had to face many TV cameras and answer questions from dozens of reporters, who had camped at the hospital to get the latest news of Chrisye’s health.
In Singapore, Yanti a finally learned what was plaguing her husband: Chrisye was diagnosed with terminal-stage lung cancer.
In a touching chapter; Alberthiene describes how the bad news shook Chrisye‘s whole family.
Chrisye said he felt the diagnosis was the end of his world and the musical career that he had been building since his youth.
“Will I ever sing again, Ti?” Chrisye asked his wife. No one knew the answer.
Chrisye, always an introverted and moody person, said he was drowning in sadness, hopelessness, emptiness and loneliness.
He lost all spirit and confidence. He felt that he was not needed anymore. He thought that people were nice to him only out of pity.
He refused to listen to music or watch TV, because he was afraid to face the thought that his musical career was over.
One day, Alex Kumara, one of Chrisye’s best friends, had an idea to write the singer’s life story.
“I saw that he was really down after his cancer diagnosis. He felt that he had already died. I thought that [writing a] biography would be good therapy,” Yanti said recently at the book’s launch.
Surprisingly, making the first book bolstered Chrisye’s spirits; he was excited to share his long musical journey with others.
After a terrible depression, Chrisye resigned himself to his illness.
The singer, said Alberthiene, became quite talkative and was willing to discuss anything. For example, Chrisye discussed his split from Eros Djarot and Jockie Suryoprayogo.
The trio recorded the hit album Badai Pasti Berlalu (The Storm Must Be Over) before deciding to go their separate ways.
Chrisye’s cancer diagnosis taught him the importance of making the most of the time he had left. The book’s climaxes when Chrisye triumphed over his pain on stage and sang one more time in public.
Chrisye had a strong will that drove him to perform again. On May 28, 2006, Chrisye appeared for the first time on a live local TV show, and then at other shows, including the music festival Soundrenaline and Pekan Raya Jakarta (Jakarta Fair Festival).
This book captures Yanti’s struggle to cope with her husband, the family’s business and financial problems.
There was times when she was tired and depressed by her husband’s mood swings.
“He was me, and I was him. When he was ill and feeling down, I was also mentally down. I felt as if half my soul had gone,” Yanti said.
Chrisye’s feelings, thoughts and hopes are explored in the book’s eight chapters. The writer lets us view Chrisye and his family through their eyes.
We see how hard Chrisye fought his illness when he cried while trying to eat raw vegetables and steamed chicken.
Last Words is accompanied by many black-and-white photos, which show the highs and lows of Chrisye’s illness.
Alberthiene’s book is more than a journal of a dying cancer patient. Yanti said that she hoped that the book would help other cancer patients and their famiies to facing difficult situations.
Last Words teaches us to appreciate life and to make the most of our time here.
The Last Words of Chrisye
PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta, 2010