February 13, 2018

My son had been moved to a hospital room after surgery. He had only hours before undergone a complicated procedure in which he had a tumor removed from his spinal cord. Sonya would not leave his side more than a few hours for the next five days, and would be beside him as we wheeled him to the car at discharge. The sound of the life flight helicopter somewhere in the distance from our hospital room taking off and landing over and over throughout his stay in the hospital is forever etched in my mind.

Sonya especially remembers the first two sleepless nights when William was in the most pain. She could not comfort him, could offer him nothing but to hold the end of his foot or hold his hand.

Seeking something to bring ease to his body and heart, she pulled up her playlist and began to play Bebo Norman songs that she knew William liked. Bebo Norman is not just a musician; he is a poet who speaks words that reach deeply into how we are created. From what I gather, too, he lives what he wrote, retiring from the road in what many would call mid-career to go home and live fully with his spouse and children.

The songs soothed William’s pain wracked body and eased his aching heart. Sonya says that she remembers William’s body relaxing and that he would sleep for periods of time. The music also soothed her mother’s heart. After William was discharged, Sonya sent a message to the artist, thanking him for blessing them. Two people Bebo Norman would never meet, and yet two people deeply grateful for his contribution to care and love. Whether he received the message or not doesn’t matter. That he extended his heart in what he was called to do at the time did matter.

When I was a little boy, my mother would put us to bed and sit by the bedside for a while. Sometimes, I would ask her to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” My mother is not a singer by any stretch of the imagination. But to me, the words sounded better than Judy Garland from “The Wizard of Oz.” Even now as an aging man, when I hear the song sung today, I can remember so clearly the long ago time of goodness.

My mother is at the last season of her life. Her memory is not very clear at times. I told her a long time ago how much I valued her singing that song to me when I was little. I’m glad I told her how much her singing mattered to me.

Bebo Norman sang a song called, “Where the Trees Stand Still.” One of the things the song is about is going to the place where one’s heart is lived most completely. The place where memories are made and kept in our hearts and with others’ hearts who deeply matter to us. Time stops, permanence in the memories of our hearts is built, and we live what truly matters, more than the blur our lives can become when we don’t listen to our hearts.

You and I really matter to each other. The stage doesn’t matter. Relationships matter. They make time stand still. They matter to a little boy who was blessed by a mother who wouldn’t dare sing in public. They matter to my son whose mother sat by his bedside hoping and praying. They matter to a man who left the stage to go home to a higher calling, called his wife and children. We don’t miss our lives by missing a stage. We have our lives by living where the trees stand still.

I hope that you will pull up the song “Where the Trees Stand Still.” I hope the words will speak to you. And wherever the singer is today, I bet he is living what matters most, which may be the greatest song he would have ever sung. We will never hear it, but the ones who it matters to most will.