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Dan Steven: News

Book published and available! Dan's music is also available - March 1, 2015

Published by Essence Publishing, Guardian Books imprint, Belleville, ON, Canada. ISBN 978-1-55452-672-7.

For Jan's book, click the hyper links:

*Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Dance%20at%20My%20Funeral&sprefix=Dance%2Caps&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3ADance%20at%20My%20Funeral

*Kindle E-books:
http://www.amazon.com/Dance-My-Funeral-Steven-prophet-ebook/dp/B007KB1VKA/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1393863796&sr=8-4&keywords=Dance+at+My+Funeral

*Apple: iPad, iPod, and iPhone from iBookstore

*Essence publishing: http://essencebookstore.com/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=0&zenid=6511ae71503e15e82341cb6c05489201&keyword=Dance+at+My+Funeral


For Dan's music, click the hyperlinks:

*http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dansteven for "Beggars and Kings" by song or CD
*http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dansteven2 for "Voices from God" by song or CD
*songs are available as MP3, MP3 320, and FLAC files
*many music Internet sites listed on "contacts" page and on cdbaby page

"Dance at My Funeral" by Emily Geertsma Klooster, submitted to Christian Week - January 21, 2003

DANCE AT MY FUNERAL
By Emily Geertsma Klooster
Special to Christian Week, Canada's Leading National Christian Newspaper


LONDON, ON—Last month I went to an amazing funeral where we celebrated the life of Dan Steven, who died December 6. The 25-year-old street musician and poet had battled a brain tumour for three and a half years.

Dan left specific instructions about what he wanted to happen at his memorial service: “I want you to dance at my funeral,” he sang in a song he had written years before all of this happened, “I want you to celebrate your life!” We decided to honour his wishes by doing just that.

One of Dan’s most powerful attributes was his love for music and understanding of its emotional power. When he was 17 he told family and friends that he wanted to be a musician and recording artist, and the songs he went on to write were intricately connected to his love for God. Music embodied Dan’s spiritual intensity, which was impossible to miss.

Soon after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, Dan made his first album entitled Beggars and Kings, which included the song “Dance At My Funeral.” This song would prove more meaningful than anyone thought at the time. Dan said to his mother that it came to him on the beaches of Lake Huron, well before his diagnosis, and he had inscribed the lyrics into the sand.

Much has happened since that day on a Lake Huron beach. Over the past three and a half years, Dan spent his time playing guitar and singing on the streets of London, Newfoundland and Jerusalem. He recorded a second album, Voices From God, devoted in part to his yearning for heaven and his union with God.

And on December 6, Dan’s desires were fulfilled when he passed on to another world. On that morning, snow gently fell exactly as it had on the day of his birth almost 26 years before.

The service took place at First Christian Reformed Church in London, and the bulletin described Dan well: “Traveler, friend, poet, whacky sing-songwriter, prophet, pilgrim, respecter of angels...disciple of Jesus, hugger of trees...” Sunflowers surrounded the casket, topped with a photo of Dan smiling and flashing the peace sign.
An eclectic mix of people sat in the pews. Dread-locked young men with tattered clothes sat alongside elderly couples in suits and dresses. This congregation of Dan’s friends and family represented the many people and communities he affected in his short but full life. When the microphones were opened, many came forward to speak.

A young man shared that when he met Dan he had been depressed for a long time: “Dan showed me what love was.” Another said Dan would often shock those around him by going to the bar and talking passionately about God over a beer. A woman said Dan had shown her how to forgive.

Another man, already in tears, said he hadn’t known Dan very well, but knew him only as “friendly neighborhood Dan”—someone who went from house to house in London spreading his cheerful disposition to everyone he could find. Not only did Dan give away his love, but also his clothing, shoes, food and money to anyone he thought needed it more than he.

Already Dan’s funeral had been a powerful witness to his life in Christ, but the best part was yet to come. The pastor announced that we were about to listen to another one of Dan’s songs, and that yes, we were going to dance! But no one thought we would dance like we did.

Out of the speakers trickled Dan’s voice, singing “I want you to dance at my funeral ...” set to a rousing accordian track. A few began to sway gently, but soon others were twirling around gleefully in the balcony and a circle formed at the front of the church. Everyone joined hands and kicked up their heels, even if it was through a blur of tears. People clapped and sang along, and laughter rang through the entire church. Those passing the church on the sidewalks would never have guessed a funeral was going on inside.

Dan’s funeral represented his life beautifully. He was an intense young man, in love with God and a firm believer in angels. Dan was determined to touch as many people as he could with God‘s love, and he had a spiritual intelligence to be envied.

"From Light into Light" by Patricia Westerhof - 2003

FROM LIGHT INTO LIGHT
Compiled by Patricia Westerhof


I. PROLOGUE

What Dan Steven’s mother wrote in an e-mail to friends in December 2002:

“Dan told me several times as he was growing up that he would not make 27 years old. I would tell him, ‘Shush, don’t talk like that.’”

The song that Dan Steven composed in the sand in Grand Bend in 1995, when he was 17 years old:

I want you to dance at my funeral.
I want you to celebrate your life.
Yeah, I want you to dance at my funeral.
In this way you remember me, remember me,
and you keep my light alive.

Death’s nothing more than a doorway,
a doorway home to the light,
and we’re going to be there someday.
Until then, keep your torch burning bright, until then,
Keep your torch burning bright

because the sky is gonna fall on us someday,
wash our every memory away,
and all our empty treacheries are going to decay
and love will remain

so I want you to dance at my funeral
I want you to celebrate your life
go ahead, you can dance at my funeral
In this way you remember me, remember me,
In this way you remember me, remember me,
and you keep my light alive.


What Doug Romanow wrote to CBC’s Sounds Like Canada:

”My name is Doug Romanow. I have been a record producer working in Toronto since 1991. In 1993, Brian Walsh, now a U of T student Chaplain, forwarded a letter to me from a seventeen-year-old musician named Dan Steven. Dan was a songwriter who wanted to find his way into the music business. He had an immense amount of energy and vision and a calm assurance that this was his role in life. We stayed in touch, occasionally writing letters, or he would drop by the studio, to remind me that he hadn't forgotten me or his dream of being a recording artist.

Six years passed before he was ready to make his first record. He may have waited longer, but his parents informed me that Dan had developed a brain tumor that threatened to shorten his life, and if he was going to make a record, it would have to be soon. We began work on that record in 1999, booking sessions around his chemotherapy appointments and the recovery times that intense radiation demand. Dan would often drive into Toronto [from Chatham], sing for an hour, and then crash on the couch for three! While he would sleep, I would edit his performances, record keyboard parts, book musicians, studios, etc. Knowing this might be his one and only recording, I pulled in as many favours as I could, calling on musicians with national and international reputations to support him on this record. Even though Dan was ill, I pushed him to deliver his very best performances, and would have him sing a song 6 - 10 times if necessary, so I had what I needed to "comp his vocal." Dan rose to the challenge of the rigour of making a professional record, and 'Beggars and Kings" is a recording worthy of a national release. In the months ensuing, Dan did a number of shows, but his energy levels never permitted a full-on assault on the Canadian music scene.

In September of this year, his parents contacted me to edit and mix a recording he had started earlier this year. He had recorded it prior to losing control over the right side of his body. He is now confined to a wheelchair and has all but lost his ability to speak. He is too ill to be able to travel into Toronto and so I have been mixing this project, praying that he will be able to hear the finished results before he dies. This last weekend, his parents called me to request a particular song be bumped up the list, as they will need it for his funeral….

In all the years I have known Dan, he has never complained about his lot in life, and in spite of the cancer he has fought in these more recent years, he has never shown a hint of resentment for his illness. [In fact, he claims to have seen and spoken with angels, and his lyrics continue to proclaim his trust in God]. What is even more impressive, in my mind, is Dan's ability to speak so candidly about spiritual things without ever sounding preachy or condescending. He is a young man firmly rooted in contemporary culture, with an immense capacity to see beyond himself to things eternal.

It is a difficult thing to work on a dying man's last request. People make recordings for a lot of different reasons, but the importance of this project to the people who know and love Dan Steven makes this record one of the most important projects I have ever worked on.

It grieves me to see Dan slipping away from us, and I am doubling my efforts to finish editing/mixing his record by the first week of December. I pray that Dan can be with us for at least that long.”

What Dan’s mother wrote in an e-mail to friends:

“On Nov. 4, [2002] Dan walked with a cane into the doctor’s office to have his last appointment. On Nov. 5, Dan told me, “There is nothing more to say,” that he was at peace with letting go, and that “it’s Ramadan,” the holy pilgrimage to God. Ramadan started Nov. 6….”

II. NOVEMBER

What Dan’s mother wrote in an email to friends:

“I don’t even know what date it is - somewhere in the middle of November. It is a Sunday morning. Another week has gone by. I am home in Chatham for one day and at last have a few moments to write you all….

Until Tuesday afternoon, things seemed to be on plateau, with Dan holding his own, using his walker-cane, moving himself around the house, sitting in the regular chairs, feeding himself, talking in short phrases occasionally, awake for 6-7 hours daily, needing the help of only one person to get him into bed, walk, etc. We had made plans with his producer to come to Toronto on Saturday to work on the completion of Dan’s new CD. But Tuesday evening through Wednesday, Dan took a turn for the worse ...... was much less alert, had significantly decreased body tone, could not manage a verbal “yes” or “no” (we asked him to use signs ...one finger for yes, two for no), slept a lot more, was up for a mere half hour, ate little. When the nurse tested his pupils, one was not reacting to light anymore. This is a bad sign for brain herniation, of the coming end. She immediately called for a huge increase in the steroid decadron, from 20 mg to36 mg, to combat the probable swelling in the back of the brain, and she put a call into the palliative care doctor for further care. I stayed overnight in Dan’s room to keep an eye on him.
By Thursday, Dan was doing much better, could speak a few words again, was up maybe 5 hours, much more alert, but now needing a wheelchair in the house and continuing to need two people to transfer him from bed to wheelchair, and needing for the most part to be fed by us. Swallowing is getting more and more difficult. The doctor made a house call to meet Dan, see the changes for himself, and take over his care. Because Dan was responding well to the increased medication, the doc reduced the decadron to 28 mg so that he has more ammunition in reserve. On Friday, Dan continued to improve a little, but still not to the point that he had been on Monday. However, it seems he got through the crisis point of Tuesday.

We held off making a decision about taking Dan up to Toronto as long as we could. But by Friday, we accepted that he could not travel anymore ….We made plans for a
few of his musician friends to go with Chris, Dan’s Dad, to Toronto on their own, to add a choir to one of the new songs; we kept Dan at home. When Dan realized he was not going as planned, his face fell ... but only for two seconds ... he understood immediately and was just happy his Dad and friends had gone and had had an awesome, successful
time, working for him on his record….
Chris, Dan’s dad, and Freda, his stepmom, have been so gracious, letting me/us come into their house now for three weeks already, working together as a team. Freda is busy getting pictures together, photo albums of Dan’s life that we can treasure forever. Chris has been off work since September, taking care of Dan ….
Flowers and cards and phone calls and food have come. Thank you, everyone. Even though this time is truly the hardest of my life, of our lives, there have been so many blessings….”

How she ended the e-mail:

“There is a peace in lying in the dark beside my 25 year-old son, listening to his breathing, keeping watch over him…. I feel the angels around us.
Love, Jan.”

One of the songs Dan’s friends worked on the day they traveled to Toronto without Dan:

Plane to Jerusalem

I found me a plane to Jerusalem
Going down to Gethsemane
And I’ll sing to the sands of the Holy Land
Till the prophets start speaking to me
If you don’t see me tomorrow
Please don’t be waiting round for me
I will be oceans away playing music
On a corner in a Middle Eastern street
Please don’t be long, my God, be waiting for me

Sail into fall and your winds have been calling
When summer hits autumn, I’ll be home to you
And on Holy Mount Zion
I’ll lay with the Lion
And sing to the light of your amber moon
Maybe pick up the Pope on a visit to Rome
Play a few rounds of Monopoly
And we’ll smoke cigarettes and go fishing
On the Sea of Galilee

Please don’t be long, my God, waiting for me

So if you don’t see me tomorrow
Don’t be waiting round for me
I will be oceans away playing music
On a corner of a Middle Eastern Street
Because I found me a plane to Jerusalem
Going down to Calvary’s tree
And I’ll sing to the sands of the Holy Land
Till the prophets start speaking
To me.

What Rick, Dan’s stepfather, said in an e-mail to friends:

“Hi. It is time for an update. It is a daunting task, however. One I wish that Jan was able to do. But she is otherwise occupied, and so the job is mine.
Jan is in London full time now….I commute. Someone is sleeping nightly in Dan’s room now….
The doctor has upped his decadron to 36 mg again. Dan didn’t talk at all Monday, so this was an attempt to regain some function. It did help Dan to be more alert and to be awake more, but he still doesn’t speak much….
Jan, bless her wise soul, has given copies of Dan’s CD to the doctor, nurse, and support worker. Now Dan is not just a body in a bed to these people, but an articulate, gifted individual with a beautiful voice. In fact, Dr. Swift, the palliative care doctor, couldn’t stop talking to Dan about the CD and how good it is. Dan was completely embarrassed. Dr. Swift said he was crying well before the end, but really lost it during Dance at My Funeral. He insisted on buying another copy for a friend….
Today, FedEx delivered a CD from Doug Romanow with half of the songs finished, but not yet mastered. He’s added vocals, keyboards, and strings and has cleaned up Dan’s voice and some of the other tracks. We put it on and listened. Doug has really worked his magic again. These songs were good before. Now they reach out and grab you and won’t let go….Just into the first song, Dan began to cry. First time in a year he has cried….that was all it took. All six of us started bawling. Cried all the way through the six songs….
Pastor Steve has been down a couple of times this past week. He’s spent hours with Dan and Jan and Chris. Jan, Steve and Chris have the funeral service pretty much planned. Yes, we will dance. Yes, afterwards, we will eat ice cream and read poetry….”

The first song of Dan’s they listened to that day:

Waiting for the Resurrection

Beverly, I don’t know why the Streets of Peterborough
Sparkle after midnight
I walk down this road to the river where the current flows
About 40 times and it’s gonna be 49 tonight.
You don’t have to tell me how your life is doing
And you don’t have to smile if the hallway isn’t in the right light
My teacup misses you and the Christmas holidays were a cyclone
And the Titanic child is sinking still tonight
Still sinking -

And I’m waiting for the Resurrection
Waiting for the Resurrection
Waiting for the Resurrection

You and me, we are going to survive this storm
We are going to find the fields of sun
You and me, we are going to reshape these shadows
Kiss into the unbeginning of the unbegun

I don’t know what you’re learning at university
But I know I’m learning to be lost
And to be alright with it
‘Cause the January grass blades have a funny way
Of blooming on their own if you only learn to go with it

And I’m waiting for the Resurrection
Waiting for the Resurrection
Waiting for the Resurrection

And this rain you know it, it will continue
Like a hundred thousand childhood years ago
Beverly, we’re gonna wake up one day and realize
We were never separate snowflakes
There was only just the snow
And if the sun decides to shine
If the sun decides to shine
I’ll still hold your hand in mine

Waiting for the Resurrection …..

How Rick ended his e-mail:

“It was hard to see him cry today. In the end, I guess, we can’t protect him from that, either. But he has mostly been at peace, pain free, sure of his salvation, and looking forward to dancing with the angels in the sky. For Dan, it is the journey from here to that doorway home to the light which is difficult. For the rest of us, the difficulties will continue. And so will the blessings.
Rick”


Another e-mail from Rick to friends:

“It’s been a few days, so it’s time for another update, I guess.

Dan continues to fade. But slowly….Someone sleeps in Dan's room each night now. Jan stayed Thursday night. At 4:00 AM Jan awoke because Dan began to have a seizure. Within 15 seconds, Jan had it stopped with the Ativan. And Dan was good on Friday, so the Ativan did its job. There has been no seizure recurrence since then….

Last year at this time Dan was in Newfoundland, living in a bus, singing for his supper. He was desperate to get home however: he wanted to be in Chatham for his Mom's birthday. We sent him bus fare and he rode the Greyhound 36 hours to get home before December 5. He made it with a day to spare.

Dan still smiles at family and close friends and occasionally laughs. But he is mostly really trapped in a body that no longer responds. He clearly knows what is
going on around him. Understands everything. But he can't make his face and limbs and body respond. Certainly his muscle tone is failing, but the bigger problem is finding
the pathways and connections and locations inside the brain to command the body. It's hard for Dan. It's hard for us to watch. It's hard.

What goes as a result is a comic opera. Hard, but funny. Two, or four, or six, or more people trying to figure out what Dan may want or may need. He leans forward in his chair and we all jump to try to guess what he wants. On Saturday, Jan got Dan up and put him back to bed four times between 2:30 and 7:00. Guessing that he wanted to be where he wasn't. Maybe. Maybe not. Monday, again, Jan says he was up and down and up and down….

The doctor wanted Dan to decide about an increase to 48mg of decadron. It might give him an extra few days or week. Dan can't answer us when we ask if he wants a drink. How can he answer this question? As far as Dan understands life, God decides if he has a few extra days or weeks. He has never known what meds he takes or why. Jan and I talked about the fact that Dan is still laughing at the dog, enjoying his friends, and is not in any pain. Why not try to stick around to hear the final cut of his new CD? What kind of discussion is this for parents to have anyway?...”

How Rick ended his e-mail

“Thanks for your support, your calls, your emails, and your love. It helps us get through to tomorrow. So do the songs on Dan's new CD. Lots of references to angels. To fading away. To the resurrection. Last song is entitled, "Until that Final Day." He was/is a prophet. Soon he'll be "oceans away playing music." Dancing with the angels.
Rick”

What Dan said in his song “Until that Final Day:

Until That Final Day

Take flight, take flight,
Follow the flow of the rising tide
Oh, tonight nothing stands in my way
With these wings I will glide
Guide you safely by My side
Until that final day
Until that final day

O arise, arise
Kiss the heights of the highest skies
Where all reunite in the flame
Where the horizon lies,
On the shores of twilight dry your eyes
And in love, we will fade, fade away
Yes, in time, in time
We all will be unified
Yes, we all will be one, once again
And I will shine
Like the sun through this world of night
Until that final day, that final
Until that final day


III. DECEMBER

What music writer James Reaney wrote in the London Free Press, December 8, 2002:

“There are some stories in which joy and sorrow are so deeply entwined, there is no easy way to begin, write or finish them.
The story of London singer-songwriter Dan Steven and his music is one of those. I first met Dan just days ago. He was gravely ill with cancer. Dan was in his wheelchair at his father's house in London, surrounded by loving parents and step-parents. His songs of innocent experience filled the room. They flowed with his blend of folk, pop, street, wit, hope, insight, playfulness, anger, spirituality, belief and seriousness.
With that same ever-present love flowing around him, Dan, 25, died last week. The visitation is in London today at the Needham funeral chapel, 2 p.m. till 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The funeral service is tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the First Christian Reformed church in downtown London.“

What Jan, Dan’s mother, wrote in an email to friends:

“…The Monday before he died, he stopped eating. The Tuesday, he stopped drinking. Rick and Jesse came up to London where I had been with him for the past five weeks. Wednesday morning, he smiled once more for us, listened to his two brothers from his two families playing "Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven's Door" and "I Wish I had a Million Dollars". He slipped into a coma at noon. His brother Joel came from Grand Rapids. His brother Jono flew in from Seattle and arrived at 11 P.M. Thursday night. The two families kept constant vigil and continued to talk to him, love him, sing and pray. We listened to Mary Lowe's tape, "Going Home", Beth Seay's tape of Christian songs, and his new CD, "Voices from God", as each song was finished and purolated to us. All his family was there. Ramadan was over Thursday at midnight. His album was finished at 2:30 A.M. Friday.

We all were lying in his room, in sleeping bags, and gathered around at 4 A.M. on Fri., Dec 6 when my sister told us he was leaving soon. He opened his eyes wide one last time, looked at me but not at me, beyond me; he took two last slow breaths, and then took flight, "straight into the sky" where he has always longed to be….”

What Chris, Dan’s father said:

“We didn’t call the doctors right away when he died. We waited about an hour. We wanted some time to accept the end. And then Jan called me to come outside. It was snowing—big beautiful flakes like on the night he was born. It was magical.”

What Jan, Dan’s mother, wrote in her email:

“When we went outside after, it was still dark. It was snowing slightly, and the snowflakes were sparkling, dancing in the streetlights. !!!! Exactly the same as the night he was born, 25 years earlier, Dec. 24. Light, sparkly snowflakes fluttering down, silence all around, no cars…we were amazed.”


Part of the eulogy that Laurence, Dan’s uncle, gave at the funeral:

“Dan was a prophet and a poet…All poets are prophets in the sense that they “see” more than us regular folk, and they see differently. But prophet-poets are special. Their vision, and their lives, are on the edge—they straddle two worlds. They are both ‘here and not here’ as Dan’s friend Clint said of Dan. We often call them free spirits—but I want to stress that freedom isn’t an easy thing to carry.
Being free constantly gets you into trouble with authority. As Dan said, ‘the city is where hearts and worlds collide.’ The city is the world we humans build and maintain through authority and responsibility. We hold our hearts in check to stay sane, secure, and physically satisfied. The heart is the yearning we have for freedom from this world of conventions.
Dan…lived in the collisions of heart and world. And because he did so, we catch a glimpse of another world, another way to live. We are made larger because they were here, even though while they were here their “freedom” often affronted us, frightened us, as well as amazing us.”

What the minister said:

“Dare to be a Daniel.”

What a friend of Dan’s said at the “open-mike” at the funeral:

“The second-last time I saw Dan, we were in Victoria Park, and it was snowing. We spun around in circles until we passed out. Dan was so happy—he talked about how beautiful and how incredible it all was. Being with him was like that.”

What another friend said:

“When I first met Dan, he was in a pub in London drinking a beer and talking about Jesus, and I thought that was strange, talking about Jesus while drinking beer, but then I got to know Dan, and I found out he really meant what he said about Jesus, and he drank beer because he liked to have a good time and he didn’t see any contradictions between Jesus and beer.”

What a young woman said:

“I’ve always had a sort of problem with Christmas, and I get depressed about it every year. When I met Dan, I found out his birthday was December 24, and I thought, “That’s odd—his birthday is on Christmas Eve. Maybe Christmas can’t be that bad. Then last year, I got home on Christmas Eve, feeling depressed and my roommate said, “Dan’s here” and I was really happy, because Dan always made me happy. I walked into the living room and there was Dan and the Christmas tree. He had put up my Christmas tree for me.”

What another friend said, outside, smoking a cigarette:

“Well, there are some stories we can’t tell!” (laughter)

What Dan’s aunt said:

“Remember the Christmas that Dan went looking for his friend who lived on the streets, and he found him, and the friend said, “It’s Christmas, and I get down at Christmas, so leave me alone,” and Dan gave him all of his Christmas presents—everything he had received that day.”

What Jen Vanderbeek, a family acquaintance, wrote on an Internet chat site:

“It was a funeral like few others. Perfumed people in three piece suits sat next to people who hadn't seen soap or hot running water in months. The propers and the paupers all together. The ones who like to hold on to, be guided and prompted by paper bulletins and the ones who can't read….
Near the end of the funeral, the microphone was made available for anyone who wanted to speak, to come forward and do so.
"He gave me his shoes!" one man said. "Walked away, there on the cold sidewalk, in his socks and me wearing his shoes!" He shook his head a minute and then sat down….
After the words were done, the song "Dance at my Funeral" was played and, well, those people, (stodgy reformed people well represented among them) danced at Dan's funeral. In defiance of death. In honour of life. For the joy that comes of knowing eternal life.”


What Doug Romanow said about burial:

“It was really cold. There were way too many people to fit under the tent they set up over the grave. So we stood in the wind. Some of his friends lay down and made angels in the snow.”

What Dan’s mother wrote a week after Dan’s funeral:

“We were taken aback, blessed by surprise, when, as we left the funeral home Monday night, we saw a huge angel in the snow, surrounded by a perfect circle….”

Dan’s voice, captured on CD, playing in my living room right now:

Baby, wipe your tears away
Spring is here; it’s a sunny day.
Now’s the time to be in love
Quit your worries, quit your crying,
We’re going kite-flying
We’re going kite-flying
We’re going kite-flying.

I got a picnic basket full of cheese
I got a string to let loose in the breeze,
I know a field with just a couple of trees
No telephone cables to stop us baby
It’ll be just you and me and a day to be alive

We’re going kite-flying ….

If I had my way
We would be here forever
We would melt away with this song into the sky
If I had my way right now right here forever
We would teach ourselves to fly

We’d run, run through the fields of green
Laughing and a’singing in a summer time dream
Now’s the time to be in love
No more worries, no more crying
We’re going kite-flying, we’re going kite-flying,
We’re going kite-flying if it’s the death of me.

"Remembering Dan" by Laurence Steven - December 9, 2002

Remembering Dan
— a remembrance for Dan Steven, Dec. 9, 2002;
by Laurence Steven, Dan’s Uncle

When my brother Chris, Dan’s dad, asked me to offer a remembrance at Dan’s funeral on behalf of the Steven family, I was honoured, and a bit dismayed. After all, I have lived in Sudbury, six hours north of London, since 1983. I knew Dan as an uncle knows a nephew he sees occasionally; in other words, not well.

And that was Chris’s point. My distance, he felt, might enable me to gather some perspectives on Dan that those more intimately connected might not see as readily. He also felt I might be able simply to get through this task. I hope so . . . .

Dan profoundly affected a lot of people; the gatherings both here and yesterday at the visitation attest to that. Dan touched people — and they remember that touch. What does it mean for us to remember Dan? It means we want to bring back into the fullness of our attention a relationship we had with him, but which is past. We want to feel Dan’s touch again.

Here are a few strands of memory, culled from stories and anecdotes a variety of people have generously shared with me. Perhaps they will help reflect something of your Dan as well:

Imagine a downtown London street: a penniless, hand-to-mouth, hungry, busker Dan goes down on his knees to earnestly ask God to bring food to the hungry in the world, then gets up, walks around the corner, and immediately finds a restauranteur offering him a big bag of sandwiches, which he promptly gives to someone living even closer to the hungry streets than he is.

Now imagine an open stage in a bar: a well-equipped band finishes its set, to haphazard applause; waves of chatter quickly surge through the room again. Then a scrawny, scruffy kid with a guitar climbs onto the stage. He stares out at the din, then starts slapping the side of his guitar, over and over, regularly, until the crowd gradually stops talking and pays attention. And he has them, and holds them, . . . and then he sings.

Imagine you’re a little girl named Andrea, three or four years old, watching TV on Saturday morning, when an apparition in long scraggly hair, growth of beard, and guitar in hand lurches down the hallway. Now that’s a scary sight . . . .

Now imagine a five year old Dan, upon hearing that my son Tom had been born, asking his grandma if he was still going to be her #1 special grandson. Grandma smiles down and says, “Of course, dear; even when you’re 49 you’ll still be my #1 special grandson.” The earnest five year old says “Grandma, when I’m 49, you won’t be here. . . .”

Now imagine it’s 11:00 o’clock at night; two little girls — one nine, Jessica, and one 7, Amanda — are at the window of their grandmas’s apartment on Springbank Drive, looking down and watching their eight year old cousin Dan slipping across the lawn of the apartment building, then across the street, and into the Woodland Cemetery to go and visit his great aunt Gardie and great uncle Olding, his great grandma Connie and great grandpa Walter, and his great, great grandma Flossie and great, great grandpa Arthur . . . in the family plot.

Or imagine Dan as a little boy repeatedly singing the Little Orphan Annie hit “Tomorrow”, in an Al Jolson pose, arms spread wide, and wanting to be Annie.

Or imagine Dan fulfilling his friend Sultan’s joking request for a birthday present by actually wearing a dress for an entire evening on the town.

Or imagine Dan “sittin’ on the dock of the bay, Watchin’ the tide roll away” in California, or Vancouver, or St. John’s NFLD.

Or imagine Dan giving away his shoes . . . or his smile . . . or his guitar . . . or his smile . . . or his Christmas gifts . . . or his smile . . .

Or imagine him bringing home street people or bag people who need a place for the night.

Now also imagine the reactions of the roommates or parents he brings them home to . . .

Perhaps you can empathize with Dan’s dad Chris when he wondered, in bewildered exasperation: “Who are you?!”

Who was Dan?

Among these other relationships — son, grandson, brother, cousin, nephew, friend — Dan was, centrally, a poet and a prophet. Not all poets would be called prophetic, and not all prophets are poets. But Dan was both, and he joins an illustrious group of poet/prophets who died young, or relatively so. I’m thinking of the English poets John Keats, who died at 26, Percy Shelley — dead at 30, Lord Byron — dead at 36, the Jesuit priest/poet Gerard Manley Hopkins — dead at 45, D. H. Lawrence — dead at 44. (At my age, as far as I’m concerned, dying at 45 is dying young . . .). And then there are the First World War poets Edward Thomas, killed in 1917 at age 39, and Wilfred Owen, killed in the last week of the war, at age 25.

All poets are prophets in the sense that they “see” more than us regular folk, and they see differently. But his group I’ve mentioned, including Dan, are special even to poets. Their vision, and their lives, are on the edge — they straddle two worlds. They are both “here and not here” (as Clint Armstrong said of his friend Dan). We often call them free spirits — but I want to stress that freedom isn’t an easy thing to carry.

Being free constantly gets you into trouble with authority. As Dan said, “the city is where hearts and worlds collide.” The city is the world we humans build and maintain through authority and responsibility. We hold our hearts in check to stay sane, secure, and physically satisfied. The heart is the yearning we have for freedom from this world of conventions.
Dan, and the poets I’ve mentioned, lived in the collision of heart and world. And because they did so, we catch a glimpse of another world, another way to live. We are made larger because they were here, even though while they were here their “freedom” often affronted us, frightened us, as well as amazing us.

The free spirits burn across the sky like lightning, a “current all their own.”

And yet . . . and yet — there is another dimension here: these poet/prophets, as short as their lives were, were all supported in what they did by people who saw the lightning, glimpsed the other world, and in constant love buffered the shocks of the world as best they could. Keats had his brother the doctor; Shelley had his wife Mary (author of Frankenstein); Byron had a close circle of friends; Hopkins had his brother Jesuits and superiors; Lawrence had his wife Frieda and close friends; and Thomas and Owen had their comrades-in-arms. And of special importance to Dan — Vincent van Gogh had his Theo.

And Dan himself? In addition to a whole trainload of friends, Dan had a family to envy . . . . Dan was able to say to us with force “People, people snap out of it!” because his parents made sure his voice was heard — both physically by nursing him in his sickness, but also financially and logistically by enabling the music to happen and live on. But they gave Dan one more gift, an incalculable one — by introducing him, as a child, to the person who would become the linchpin for all Dan was to become and for all he will become.

That person, of course, was Jesus Christ. From “Heaven Hear Me”, the first track on Beggars and Kings, through to “Plane to Jerusalem”, the last track on Voice From God, we are overhearing Dan’s intimate conversation with his Lord. It’s for Jesus that Dan waters “the roses in the wintertime — from October 27th straight through to St. Patrick’s day.” It’s with Jesus’s assurance that Dan says to Beverly, “we are going to wake up one day and realize that we were never separate snowflakes, there was only just the snow.”

Dan referred to himself as a “livin’ prophet in a dyin’ age” and said “I stay here to remember”, but “I believe in the world to come; I’ll soon be on my way.” Dan has gone on his way. I’m sure that he, that “great big shiny light,” is happy that we who are still here will remember, and “keep our torches shining bright.”

Eulogy by Kathy Sneller - December 9, 2002

Eulogy for Dan Steven, December 9, 2002
Kathy Sneller, Dan’s Aunt

Daniel Christopher Steven was my nephew. I didn’t know him when he wore that bright green, furry, plush snowsuit – his cousin David wore it many years later. I did not get to smell his baby neck or watch him toddle around – those good aunt things. Dan entered our lives a bit later. It was a time when he and his mother were desperately needed. And there he was, climbing out of his mother’s car ready to meet a new set of grandparents. Grandma gasped at his cuteness. And we all fell in love with this dark-eyed, talkative child. Dan came into our lives just when we needed him.

Jan and Dan made a family with Rick and Joel and Jono, and later Jesse; their joy spilled over into our lives too.

Dan impressed his cousins with his coolness -- girlfriends, guitars, hair, song lyrics that made them giggle- If I didn’t wear clothes, I’d be NUDE ! Play it again, you guys, his cousins would whisper.

Dan awed his aunts with his kindness –
- to preschool cousins when he happily wore macaroni necklaces
- to friends of the family who happen to be visiting,
- to younger cousins with his sincere interest and questions about their lives

Dan delighted his uncles with his fierce independence and his sense of social justice. He and Uncle Dan talked and played and planned trips -- much to the delight of their mothers. Dan confused his orderly relatives with his lack of interest in what we expected of him and his ability to sleep and sleep and sleep at Camp Roger or Bass Lake (some of us understand that better now). We thought he should be reasonable, do some type of work we could understand. But he was just himself -- generous, clever, exasperating, brave, faith-filled. Dan amazed us with his music. We listened and laughed and cried with his first CD. His cousin Rachel came across a quote last week about art and its purpose. It spoke to her of Dan and his music. Art is an effort -- wrote Isabel Allende -- to take the evil of this world and transform it into its opposite: hope, love, friendship, solidarity, generosity, all those things that wouldn’t exist without the pain and the evil. Dan did that for us in his music and left us with a gift we will hold on to forever.

And now we are left -- his aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins -- just when we need him-
- left to ponder how he could be so grounded in reality when we can not accept or understand.
- left to ponder in this season of Advent, his poetry and music
- left with the ones he so dearly loved and who love him enormously-especially that fierce mother of his
- left to ponder how he could manage to be himself till the day he died.

So we will listen to his songs look at the stars and make more cookies….

Eulogy by Kim Phillips - December 9, 2002

Eulogy for Dan Steven, December 9, 2002
Kim Philips, Dan’s Aunt

What an honour it is speak on behalf of my family today. It is truly a privilege to pay tribute to Dan. Daniel Christopher Steven, Musician, Poet, Author, Philosopher. An awesome individual, who fought valiantly to overcome a brain tumour.

Dan accomplished much in these past three and a half years. He recorded his first CD, Beggars and Kings all while undergoing Chemo and Radiation. He held several concerts, one at the ICS Conference in Thamesford and another at The University of Toronto. These were two major concerts, however, Dan held concerts just about everyday of his life. He busked on the streets of various cities, provinces and even countries. Dan also traveled to Jerusalem. In early spring of this year, Dan, began recording his second CD, Voices from God, a gift dropped from heaven. He persevered re recording phrases to get it just right... having language difficulties at this point. He did this for us. He did this for God.

Dan's love for Christ was evident whenever he spoke or sang. He ministered and witnessed his faith and beliefs by example. One Christmas after gift giving Dan searched downtown London looking for a. particular friend. He found him. His friend, however, was not receptive to Dan on this particular day. It was Christmas and he was depressed. He did not want to talk to Dan. He did not want Dan's Jesus. Dan went to Victoria Park and prayed. He searched the streets again looking for this friend. Dan found him once again. This time he convinced this friend to have a coffee with him to celebrate Dan's birthday. At the coffee shop they chatted for awhile, then Dan gave all of his Christmas presents to this friend. Everything!! Sweaters, shirts, socks, underwear. This is only one occasion of Dan's selfless love for others. Countless times Dan took people home with him to eat and sleep. Dan was there for my own son and has been the best friend one could ever ask for.

Dan uplifted and energized souls through his music. He had an incredible amount of talent. I still find it amazing that Dan wrote all of the music and lyrics in his head. He never wrote one word down. He truly let the Holy Spirit into his soul and let its power flow through him. Dan used his incredible gift of music to witness his love and faith for Jesus Christ. He was never afraid to be himself or to share what he believed with the world. He challenged the world to change. He challenged people to love. Dan was a lover of much. He loved his family. He loved his friends. He loved nature. He loved music. He loved the streets. He loved the angels. He loved to dance. Most of all, he loved God.

It was truly a privilege and an honour to care for Dan in the final weeks of his illness. Dan didn't complain once during his debilitating disease. He fought determinedly at times to maintain independence while graciously accepting our help when the time came. His sense of humour never faltered, making a difficult journey one filled with joyous moments. Dan's smiles lit up an entire room. His laughter was music to our ears. Dan was at peace. He said its Ramadan. Pilgrimage home to God. Bruce Cockburn sent Dan a CD with an autographed inscription, Dan from one songwriter to another wishing you peace and smooth sailing into the arms of the boundless. Imagine Dan's awe when he came face to face with his creator and felt himself wrapped in that incredible love. All of his spiritual dreams came true...... lead the way, Dan! We will be all together again, Dancing!

"Music Gives Hope and Joy" by Jan Klooster - 2000

Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada -
Brainstorm Newsletter, Winter 2000, Issue 47

Music Gives Hope and Joy!
A STORY ABOUT DANIEL CHRISTOPHER STEVEN

By Jan Klooster. Editor’s note: This account has been written by Dan’s mother and is lovingly dedicated to honour Dan’s love of life and his gift of music. Jan and husband Rick serve as Conveners for the BTFC’s Brain Tumor Support Group in Chatham


Dan is a 23 year old Christian singer-songwriter-guitarist from London, Ontario who has been writing songs ever since high school and reaching people of from all walks of life with his music. He has traveled the continent, often busking for his necessities and playing his songs in coffeehouses, in concerts, and on streets all over North America, from Halifax to Vancouver to San Francisco. So it is as a lover of music, people, and spirituality that Dan is most well-known --- but now also as a brain tumor survivor.

Because the diagnosis and intense treatment schedule of a brain tumor caused Dan to resign from his job, he refocused his life on what was important and began fulfilling his dream...... to record his music and give others hope and joy.

In January 1999, the fingers of his right hand began to jerk randomly for short periods of time, and he could not make them stop. Over the next two months, what we came to know as simple-partial motor seizures increased in length of time and frequency, until they were occurring continually, also involving his right arm and eye. During this time, he experienced nausea, especially in the mornings, headaches, and general unwellness. Work became very difficult.

On March 18, 1999, Dan had a Jacksonian March seizure, in which the jerking activity traveled from his fingers and arm to the whole right side of his body, culminating in a grand mal seizure. He was rushed to the local hospital, put on Dilantin, and given a CT scan the next day. The CT revealed a troublesome "spot" - possibly signs of a stroke, a scar, or a lesion. An EEG the next month was normal, but the neurosurgeon to whom he was referred ordered an MRI.

The MRI appeared to show a slow-growing tumour, but in order to get a clearer diagnosis, the neurosurgeon performed a stereotactic biopsy. In May 1999, Dan, at 22, was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma, a grade three glioma, in his left frontal-parietal lobe. It was a fast growing, aggressive, infiltrative tumor on the motor strip, and therefore inoperable. Dan was referred that day to a neuro-oncologist for chemotherapy and to a radiation oncologist for radiation.

Treatments were started immediately and aggresssively. Dan began 7 rounds of PCV, the standard treatment for aa3 glial tumours, from May 1999 to March 2000, . In addition, he received six weeks of whole-brain conformal radiation from June to July 1999. Chemotherapy left Dan extremely fatigued, and twice the next round had to be delayed due to low blood platelets. Radiation caused confusion, disorientation, clumsiness, and loss of short-term memory. The weakness and loss of sensation in Dan’s fingers remained. Dilantin levels had to be adjusted several times to control the tonic, motor, and sensory seizures which also continued. Phenobarbital was eventually added, resulting in cessation of the seizure activity.

In spite of the side effects, the treatments have been effective in stopping tumor growth, even causing shrinkage. MRI's in Dec., Feb., and June 2000 have showed "stable tumor". As the months progressed, Dan’s nausea decreased and he steadily developed more energy and clarity and better well-being.

Although initially Dan had to resign from his job, he believes that his deep faith in God has led him down a different path and that “God set before me another opportunity, a much greater mission - music.” Toronto music producer, Doug Romanow, worked with Dan to record ten of his songs. The final product, Beggars and Kings, is now finished and available.

Dan faced many obstacles throughout the recording sessions, but he overcame them all with grace, courage, ingenuity, and prayer. When he could not play his guitar because of right-handed weakness, other musicians were hired to play the instruments while he sang. Many times he had to reach deep down and up to find the will and energy to continue, particularly on the weekends requiring intensive recording sessions. Again his strong religious faith in God gave him strength, and his music is blessing the lives of more people than ever before, in Canada, the United States, and as far away as Australia and Europe.

The battle continues. Dan will continue to have MRI's for monitoring, and if the tumor recurs, other treatments will be considered. In the meantime, Dan lives life fully, loving those around him, trusting in God and the medical community, and carrying out his mission. Despite the trials of the last 18 months, we believe that God has opened up new and wonderful doors and brought us all closer together - and closer to what makes life so beautiful and precious.

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