Friday, February 3, 2012

February 2, 2012: More postcards from the front...


So I finally invested in a iPad for work just before New Year's.  Man, has it already paid dividends.

On Tuesday, I saw my patient I told you about last week, whose dad was buried on Thursday.  My patient, "C", fell asleep while I played classic rock for him on my classical guitar.  On Tuesday, I found out he never awoke, and that on Tuesday, he was still with us, but only had "hours to days" left.

I went to see him.

Alone in his room, with the light shining in from the window across his massive chest, "C" struggled to breathe.  He was sedated, but not peaceful, and I could immediately tell he was not comfortable.  I told him that I was back to share some of the songs we sang together last Thursday, and I began with a more subdued version of The Eagles' "Take It Easy" (I can do a mean Glenn Frey, but stink up Don Henley... too high for me).  I then went into Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville," and while I sang about easy going beach-inspired times, C's wife and daughter came in the room.  This was the first time we met, so I introduced myself and explained how we worked together on Thursday.  I asked if C or the family had any favorite classic rock songs they'd like to hear, and the wife said, "Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down" was C's theme song."

Enter the iPad.

I haul around probably a good 25 pounds of paper music with me in my rolling cart, and it is an infinitesimal sliver of the music that has been recorded and released over the past 60 years.  However, I have this great app called Ultimate which I pay $7.99 a year to have access to an unbelievably in-depth library of songs from every genre known to man, woman, and child.

So... I pull out my handy dandy iPad, and within a few seconds, I'm playing the chord progression to "Won't Back Down" silently humming the melody to myself for review.  I bust through the song, and while I'm singing, C's other daughter and her boyfriend enter the room.

"That was dad's theme song," the younger daughter who just entered reflectively says.  The wife is tearful at this point, as is the older sister, but they are good tears, because under the tears was a smile of gratitude that C got to hear his theme song one more time.

Then C's wife asks if I know any hymns.

I say, "I sure do, but with your permission, may I share one of my own?  I think it would be just perfect."  She brightens at the idea, and I sing, "His Love Is Everlasting."  Remember, this is THE hymn written through me years before entering music therapy that was given to me as a gift for those passing over.  I sing my song, and the younger daughter looks at me and says, "You really wrote that?  All by your self?"

Sometimes, a compliment is funny when it is a little too incredulous.  ;-)  It was really sweet, though.  I replied, "Well, it wasn't so much that I wrote it as it was written through me.  In 1999 when this song was born, I didn't write hymns, or lyrics at all for that matter.  I was so stunned when it came outta me that I signed it and dated it; I had a gut feeling it was something special for later on..."

Then the mom says, "Your song reminds me of "By your Side" by Tenth Avenue North.  It's like Jesus is talking right to you.  That was C's favorite song."  I had never heard of it, so I went to write myself a note in my trusty iPad, when I had this bold idea.  You see, they didn't have a portable music player, so C wasn't gonna get to hear this tune again.

I opened up You Tube, searched for the tune, and BOOM, there's a video of the song.  The best part?  the video is made by a fan since no official video was ever produced by the band.  Wanna guess how many hits it had received?

Over 4 million 3 hundred thousand.

I officially live under a rock.

Where have I been?

That is the nature of popular music.  You simply cannot stay on top of every genre out there.

So, like John Cusack in "Say Anything,"  I turned up my iPad, held it out in front of me, and hit play on the video... and Tenth Avenue North FILLED THE ROOM.

When the song finished (and it is an AWESOME SONG, by the way as you can see below), tears and smiles filled the room.

"I am SO HAPPY C got to hear that song one more time.  Thank you."

C passed away the following day... yesterday.

This is for C...

There was no going home and learning it and coming back.  That was it.  THE moment... and thanks to my iPad, that moment was captured, and will never be forgotten by that family, much the way I will never forget that Enya was playing for my dad when he went to heaven.

Work has been intense lately, but to be a part of such a tender moment is such an honor, I can't even begin to put words to it.  I'm not gonna lie, it's not easy for me, and I certainly couldn't handle more than the 10 hours a week I put in currently in such a setting. However, some of those 10 hours each week are the holiest, most sacred hours of my life.  They are exactly what this long journey of faith, loss, and music have uniquely prepared me for.  I think I lost over 12 family and close friends by the time I was 25... probably a bit more than most guys my age in suburban america... and remember, the very vision I had when I heard Enya playing for my dad was, "Man, if I could be the soundtrack of someone's transformation from life to afterlife, THAT would be the highest use of my God-given gifts."

This is my ministry.  And I am so lucky and blessed to see it unfold in front of me.  I am so lucky.

God night.


  1. Loved everything about this post. Love getting to hear about all of the perfectly orchestrated God moments in your work. God's work is pretty good (even when it's hard) work, isn't it?

    And Jonah had that same "My 1st Halloween" onsie. Makes me miss Bella a little extra this morning. She sure was adorable.

    Matt and I started Couch 2 5K over again this week (training for 'Jogging for Jonah' on April 14th), and I almost always wear my "I Run For" shirt with the four of their photos on the back. Makes me think a little harder before I punk out. Honored to have a little piece of her with me when I go.

    Love you guys! (Typical that my comment would be three paragraphs, huh?)

  2. You are lucky. And the people you connect with are luckier. It's wonderful you can use your gift each day...

    And the iPad...i agree what a great tool. It's helping me with my "gift" as I work with Jamal at his home.
    It's a remarkable thing!!

    Lots of love from just across the freeway...we need a kids eat free night soon?!!

  3. I would like to thank you for your writing and sharing your thoughts and sharing your family! I really enjoy the spirit you and you family have.

    I cry me through these posts where you write about your work with these people who are at the end of their lifes.

    I have never commented because it´s difficult to write and express my feelings and thoughts in english.

    But I like you to know that I admire you and the work you are doing. I wish that I was that strong in my faith.

    I hope you will continue sharing!
    (and I hope you will forgive the bad grammar and spelling errors)


  4. Tim,

    Thanks for continuing to inspire us all, especially when you manage to accomplish so much with your time! I think that's pretty inspiring, too.

    You have me totally hooked on all of the EB kids and I was wondering if there are any new blogs we should know about. Any new kids doing BMT?

    Karen Steiner
    Denver, CO

  5. Oh how I have missed your posts Tim.

    I have had a been MIA since my grandmother died in late Oct. I just wanted to see what has been happening in the Riggold house-hold.

    I can not believe how much little J has grown!!. Ali is such a little sweet heart and more then ever at this time I miss Bella.

    I just wanted to say this piece of one of your posts really resinated with me:

    "so despite all the pain, that we feel in our hearts"... you know what I am talking about. At this exact time in my life it really helped me think about things and put them into parspective.

    Once again thank you Tim, Ang, Ali & Julia for all that you teach and for ispiring us all.

    Amanda <3
    Hobart, Australia.

  6. Aweeeeesssssooommmeeee of my favorites too! Thanks for sharing your sacred world w us!! Xoxo