Yesterday was a benefit for a little boy named TJ Watts. He’s 9 and has leukemia. He will finish his last round of chemo on July 5 before going in for a bone marrow transplant on July 15.
A lot of this resonates with me. I have 2 boys age 9 and 8 and a “bonus boy” age 10. I look at TJ and I see the faces of my boys. One thing about yesterday – the kids came out and got to hang out with TJ. And got to see the way life looks the same and different for someone else their age.
July 15 is my birthday. I don’t look forward to adding a year to my age as much as I did when I was 16. But this year, I won’t do any complaining because I’ll be thinking about a 9 year old boy who is facing the hardest thing he will ever face in his life, and he hasn’t even reached double digits in his years.
And that is the way that life goes with the ups and the downs, the good and the bad – the yin and the yang as the Chinese call it. Pat Green, TJ’s grandmother, gave a little speech and talked about TJ’s dreams of being a college football player for LSU. That’s that life thing – you can get knocked down and drug out, but you still have dreams. You still have that hope that propels you forward into light from darkness. It is a powerful force of the human spirit that has overcome sickness, loss, fear, and evil for centuries in human history.
Why we don’t remember our hopes and dreams at those darkest hours, I am not sure. Minnie Pearl told a story about Hank Williams. The story was about a performance on the Grand Ole Opry where Hank sang “I Saw the Light”, in kind of a slower, mournful way. As he walked off the stage, he looked at Minnie and said, “That’s the thing, Miss Minnie. There just ain’t no light.”
Maybe sometimes we need to envelope ourselves in the darkness to understand how meaningful and powerful the light is. And then again, I also believe that we need help reaching the light. TJ’s grandmother, Pat, is a constant source of light in his life – she encourages him and lifts him up during those dark times of pain and hopelessness.
Maybe that’s another reason why we do benefits and why those of us that are musicians donate our time to them. We write about pain and hopelessness and then write about light and hope and maybe a benefit is a way for us to shine a light and feel from others their encouraging light. Coming together for someone in need reminds us of how much we have to lose and how much we have to give.
Someone at the benefit remarked about my blogs and I guess they feel they are depressing. My response was that I don’t believe in portraying life as Candyland. It is not. Life is everything – good, bad, joyous and melancholy. I will readily admit that my personal bent is towards the melancholy. I do not apologize for this. It is a huge part of who I am – it is the side of my self that allows me to feel and empathize. It is the side of my self that prevents me from being judgmental. It is the side of my self that allows me to be passionate and creative. I love that part of me. And yes, there are struggles that come along with that, but as I’ve been writing this whole blog – aren’t there struggles that come with everything?
Is the best way to get through life to deny the struggles and pretend they are not happening? Is the best way to pretend that they are good and joyous? Or is there something that we can learn from the darkness? Is there something that we can learn from that dark side of life – that can inspire us as much or maybe even more than the light?
Because at some point we have to accept the fact that life is not all light. There cannot be light without darkness and there cannot be darkness without light. The contrast IS. The contrast HAS to be there. Otherwise, we cannot recognize either one.
So I am thankful for yesterday – for the horrid heat, for the long day after only a few hours sleep – and for the cool music I got to play with some amazing musicians. If I only get to be an opener the rest of my life – I’ll take the opening sets I did yesterday anytime. Music is energy to me – that life force of light and dark. I’m thankful that I once again got to express it to people that wanted to hear something that touched their soul the way that TJ’s cause did.
That’s what it’s all about, folks. Living. Experiencing. Sharing. Good, bad, whatever. It’s about being here and connecting with other people that are just trying to sort through the darkness and the light.