Flashback: Email Chain a Hoax; The Poem is Very Real


Dr. David Weatherford

I wrote this back in 2008 after receiving the “hoax email” several times. So working with the help of the internet (what did we do before it?) I tracked down the actual author of the poem, a Dr. David L. Weatherford. Today I decided to check up on David as I knew back then he wasn’t in the best of health. Again, through the internet I found he died 2 years ago. No fanfare and barely a blip on the obituaries. So, with that in mind, I reprint the below in his honor.

Urban Legend Revealed: The Real Author of “Slow Dance”

Posted by Holliston at 3/16/2008 7:08 PM and is filed under David Weatherford,Hoaxes

A while back I wrote about a chain email I received which included a poem supposedly written by a little girl suffering from cancer.

SLOW DANCE

Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.

Do you run through each day
On the fly?
When you ask “How are you?”
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?
You’d better slow down
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.

Ever told your child,
We’ll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say “Hi”?
You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift….
Thrown away.
Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.

The email included this message:

Dear All:

PLEASE pass this mail on to everybody you know. It is the request of a special little girl who will soon leave this world as she has cancer.

Thank you for your effort, this isn’t a chain letter, but a choice for all of us to save a little girl that’s dying of a serious and fatal form of cancer.

Please send this to everyone you know… or don’t know. This little girl has 6 months left to live, and as her dying wish, she wanted to send a letter telling everyone to live their life to the fullest, since she never will.

She’ll never make it to prom, graduate from high school, or get married and have a family of her own. By you sending this to as many people as possible, you can give her and her family a little hope, because with every name that this is sent to, The American Cancer Society will donate 3 cents per name to her treatment and recovery plan. One guy sent this to 500 people!!!!

So I know that we can send it to at least 5 or 6. Just think it could be you one day. It’s not even your money, just your time!!! “PLEASE PASS ON AS A LAST REQUEST”

Naturally, I never trust anything I get by email so I checked it out on one of my favorite hoax busting sites, snopes.com.  Sure enough, the email was a hoax, but the poem is very real.  It was written by child psychologist David Weatherford.   You should check out his website to read more of his writings.  It’s worth the visit.

Holliston:  Slow Dance has been making its way around the internet for about a decade under the guise of being written by a terminally ill child.  When did you find about this?

David:  I first heard the story of Slow Dance being written by a young girl dying of cancer in the early to mid 1990’s.  My brother received the chain mail and recognized the poem as one I had written.  He did a search on the internet and found that the poem was posted on numerous sites.  At that time, I had not yet accessed the internet myself so I did not fully understand what this all meant.  Of course, the story of the dying girl writing my poem was quite strange to hear.  Eventually, I of course began to surf the web and it was not long before I saw the hoax story for myself.  

H:  How did it make you feel?

D:  Initially I was quite amused.  Ordinarily, I would  be angry to learn that someone was claiming to have written one of my poems, but how can you get mad at a young girl dying from cancer.  Besides, in truth,  I always felt the whole story was a hoax, and there was not really an individual trying to steal credit for my poem.  Over time, I  began to see the poem posted without the hoax story, and it was listed as written by “anonymous” or “author unknown”.  I was tickled that it was being read by so many people, and frankly, I kind of liked the mystery of being the unknown writer!

H:  How did it make you feel knowing it touched so many people?

D:  I have been overwhelmed by the huge response to Slow Dance.  It has been posted all over the internet, at least 25 people have written songs based on the poem, dozens of publications have reprinted the poem (including 6 books), and many people from around the world have written to me to tell me how it touched them personally.  Part of why this amazes me is that the poem is not really one of my favorites.  The great irony is that it was someone’s dishonest hoax that started the whole thing!

H:  What was your inspiration for Slow Dance?

D:  In 1982, my kidneys failed and I nearly died.  I began dialysis treatments soon after. Creative writing became a way to pass long, countless hours tethered to a dialysis machine.  After a failed kidney transplant and a case of meningitis in 1983,  I suppose I had a new awareness of my mortality as well as an appreciation for the importance of living fully in the moment – which is all we are promised.  It would be a decade later before I submitted the poem for publication as a plaque through a greeting card company.

H:  Your  website has a lot of your writing . A simple yet for a psychologist perhaps not s so simple question – why do you write?

D:  You’re right, it is not simple at all.  In fact, my motivation for writing has changed greatly over the 25 years I’ve been writing.  Moreover, writing has met different needs for me as changes have occurred in my life.  I began creative writing when I started dialysis treatments simply as a way to fight boredom during my 12 hours per week tied to a machine.  I guess I found I had a knack for it, and I began to take writing classes and share my poetry with others.  As I got more and more positive feedback from others, I suppose I was then driven by a sense of pride and accomplishment as well as a desire to hone and nurture a growing skill.  When I met the love of my life, I wrote almost exclusively about love for several years.  Love can provide a powerful impetus to express what is in one’s heart, and it was indeed a period of prolific writing for me. The loss of that relationship combined with my deteriorating health turned my writing toward more introspection and an effort to make sense of my suffering.  I found writing was a way to both vent my pain and struggle, and to form my ideas about how I might find hope where there is darkness, joy where there is hardship, and blessings where there is loss.  Thus, when I write now I am in a sense writing my own guidelines for how to live a good life in a hard world.  What has been so incredibly gratifying is that many people from around the world have reached out to me to let me know that my poetry has touched them or comforted them. Some have even written to share their own pain with me and to let me know that something I wrote eased their suffering a bit.

For me, there can be no greater motivation for a writer than this.

H:  Which of your writings have been published and where?

D:  Slow Dance has been widely published in books, magazines, and  newsletters around the world, all as a result of the publishers contacting me.  My efforts to publish my other material have been less successful.  In fact, I gave up on my efforts to publish my writing many years ago as it is very time-consuming, and I prefer to spend my time on the actual writing.  Besides that, my website has helped me accomplish all I ever wanted to achieve by publishing my work – that is, to share my writing with others.

I did manage to publish 4 of my poems in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.
Three of my poems were developed into greeting cards, and I have written numerous original pieces specifically for greeting cards (Renaissance  Cards).  Finally,  I have also self published two books.  One, titled “Love Is. . .”, is a collection of original aphorisms on love.  The second, “From the Darkest Valley You Can Still See the Stars: Reflections on Suffering”, is a collection of aphorisms on overcoming adversity, some of which I wrote, and many that are favorites of mine written by others.  I would like to publish these on-line in the future.

H:  You say God and love represent everything that truly matters.   Some of your writing is inspired by Laura.  Tell us about Laura.  How did she inspire you?

D:  Many years ago, more than my heart cares to count, Laura was my girl friend.  She remains a friend today  – a true friend, a life friend, a soul friend.  And in so many ways, more than just a friend.  She inspired me to write better and to live better.  She helped me see the good in difficult people, the hope in hopeless days, and even the love for God I sometimes doubted in myself.

She was the first fan of my writing and encouraged me to share it with others, when I was reluctant to do so.  I would have no website if not for her.  She is, of course, the object of the love poems on my site. Before Laura, I wrote without much feeling and without trying to capture some truth deep within myself.    After I met her, I began to write with much greater passion.  Honestly, over the years we were together, it seemed I could only write about love for it had taken over my heart and my mind.  I believe that we are all changed by everyone we love.  For me, that was especially true with Laura.  Though she may not realize this, she affected my views on how to love, how to treat others, and how to face life’s challenges.   Thus, she has impacted pretty much everything I write.

And though I shall love her without end, I’ve no regrets for letting her go, for she has found her true happiness – and that is now one of my great joys in this life.   I know I may never see her again, but just knowing she is in this world makes it a better world for me.  The sweetest thing to me is that she still inspires me.  In times of doubt or uncertainty, I hear her in my head, saying just the right thing to lift me and comfort me.  Isn’t that more than just a friend?

H:  I will ask you what your friend Betty asked back in November (on his website)… maybe things have changed.  How are you really?

D:  To be honest, all the adversities I mentioned in the piece to which you referred  (How Am I?) are chronic and progressive.  Thus, there will be no healing, recovery, or return to better days –at least not in this lifetime.  But I would make clear, I am not at death’s door.  Though, as I have said before in one of my writings, I imagine I am in the hallway that leads to that door.  But my health problems and the other hardships I face, do not determine “how I am”.  Many years ago, I read the words of Kahlil Gibran who said “ the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain”.  That made no sense to me as a young man;  but now, I fully grasp this profound truth.  Indeed, the heart and the soul do not diminish in suffering, but rather they grow and deepen, allowing a life experience with more passion, emotion, and intensity.  And so, I now love more deeply than I ever imagined I could;  I am no longer on a futile search for happiness which is transient and elusive, but rather for meaning which is constant and sustaining;  though I hurt a lot, everyone does, so I am much more connected to others than I ever was when my life was a youthful footrace;  and while I used to think there was a God, I now know it, because I know I could not do what I do alone, without Him.

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Posted on February 19, 2012, in David Weatherford, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. David didn’t write Slow Dance. My blog on the matter:
    http://members.iinet.net.au/~enviouscatydd/

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