As a house painter, I spend a lot of time in other people’s homes. Although I’m not a sociologist, my years of painting have shown me that the timeless adage is true: the kitchen is the heart of the family. And in my humble opinion, the epicenter is the refrigerator. With just a glance, I can learn a lot about a family. Pictures tell me who they love, what they value, and where they vacation. Magnets indicate which sports team they cheer, what mechanic they deem trustworthy, or who is their orthodontist. Report cards, funny drawings, quirky cartoons…all but a facet of a family’s DNA.
Today’s blog is about a typical day on the job that quickly became extraordinary. I’ve changed the names of the family for anonymity purposes, and the quotes are from memory, but the heart of the story (as well as the organization and band) is spot on. I hope you’ll be as touched as I was…
I stare at the photo. I’ve been in their home now for two days and have seen the picture regularly. You can’t miss it: positioned prominently on the refrigerator and printed on a sheet of computer paper. But despite the colors being a bit grainy, the celebrity in the photo is very recognizable.
“Is that Dave Matthews?” I ask Susan, the homemaker.
“Yes.” She beams with motherly pride.
My eyes sweep across the picture. To the left of Dave is the guitarist and off to the right their drummer. And although Dave is the focal point of the photograph, my eyes zero in on the drummer and more specifically, his beaming smile. It’s then that I notice his arm draped over a teenage boy’s shoulder. He too is smiling, but it appears masked. Eyes are shadowed and his countenance is gray, perhaps even pale. Maybe it’s a result of the computer’s printer. But something deep inside tells me otherwise.
“The Make-A-Wish Foundation contacted us,” Susan offers as if reading my mind, “and asked Shaun what he wished for. He told them that he wanted to go to a Dave Matthews concert. So they flew him to Madison Square Gardens to see the show.”
Silence. Reverence. Questions loom, but all are none of my business.
“What an awesome experience!” I reply, and although I’m sincere, my words are shallow in comparison to the moment. In an effort to offer her a worthier reply, I add: “Meeting the band after the NY show must have been a dream come true.”
“Actually, he didn’t,” Susan corrects, relishing the opportunity to share the story about her son. “That photo was taken upstairs.”
My eyes jump back to the images. Sure enough, I recognize the bonus room pictures in the background. Aghast, and obviously not making the connection, I flash her a bamboozled expression.
“After the NY show, Dave learned we were there and informed Make-A-Wish that had he known, he would have met with us. So when the band was scheduled to perform nearby, Make-A-Wish asked us if Shaun would like to come to the show and meet the band.” She savors the memory, letting its sweetness join her smile before fanning across her face. “Naturally, we said, ‘Yes!’”
She pauses and her expression shifts delicately, like daylight fading at dusk. “But when it came time for the concert, he was too sick to go.”
I find myself studying Shaun. Now I understand his muted smile, noting how the chemo robbed him of his color, and that his fight with cancer landed the dark circles around his eyes.
My heart aches.
Susan continues. “And then his manager called asking if it would be okay if they came by after the show.” Her smile is back, the memory delightful once more. “Sure enough, around midnight, two tour buses pulled up to our front door. They stayed for about an hour.”
“You’re kidding?” I reply, amazed that a rock star would not only make a house call, but would take time to “hang.”
Susan nods, the memory anchoring her to her son. “In fact, Make-A-Wish said in all their years of doing this, they’ve never known a celebrity to actually go to someone’s home.”
No doubt, I muse.
Her expression shifts; shadowy fingers trace dark lines across her face. “Several days later, Dave called personally to see how Shaun was doing.” Her eyes mist. “I told him Shaun had died that morning.”
I feel myself sinking, lost in emotions too deep to traverse. There is nothing left to say. We take in the picture in silence, and then Susan turns to go about her day. But I cannot let go of the photograph. I marvel how it captures Shaun’s dream of just hanging out with his favorite band, being what he is suppose to be…a kid full of hope.
Shaun’s eyes tug at me. Blasting through the darkness of his disease, fighting to be free forever, are prisms of light. And shining within, I see what his family must see, and why the photo is displayed so prominently on their refrigerator.
Elation. Peace. Life.
24 thoughts on “Dave Matthews Band and A Boy With His Dream”
A touching story. Very beautifully written…
Thanks, Anthony. It was one worth my time to craft.
Jay….thanks so much for sharing. Brought tears to my eyes this morning.
1. I want to sit at that kitchen counter and eat all of the fruit in that bowl. 2. Love that you share through the eyes of a painter and all that the “title” entails. Artistry. Sociology. Philosophy.
3. Thank you for having eyes to see and giving to us so that we wouldn’t have missed out on that truly heroic and grace-filled story.
4. I bawled like a baby.
You’re kind, Gigi. Thanks.
I like the last paragraph.
Jay, I nominated you for an award: Beautiful Blogger. Here is what I said about you:
Jay and Laura participated in the initial Bible Study that became Fellowship Bible Church. Jay – granddaddy, daddy, painter, bassist, philosopher – recently wrote a book. His stories are full of grace, inspiring and funny.
Wow! Thanks again, Gigi!
Another very touching story about the band I love. While these types of actions are not common for most stars/musicians of their caliber, it is not at all uncommon for this band. Their kindness and care for their fans, especially in situations such as this, are well known among their fans. But it is always nice to see others take note.
Thank you very much for sharing such a wonderfully touching story.
Nice to know this was not just a one-time act by the DMB.
I’m not surprised at all – DMB has always been in touch with their roots and their fan base. This is one of the many reasons I love them to pieces. Thank you for this amazing story; the writing had me forcing back tears.
Reblogged this on Making a House a Home. and commented:
Love this story and this man!
wow..what a great story and thank you for sharing it.One act of kindness can and will go a long way..not just to the giver but also many times over to the people around those who receive from the giving.Sadly ..hate..anger.and wickedness will do the same with a totally opposite effect.I send much love and blessings to you the family and the Dave Matthews for acting upon what your heart was guiding you to do.ill b sure to remind my friend Jesus about you all …love Always Bobby
Touching story…not surprised Dave Matthews stepped up to the plate…one hell of a guy!! Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience.
Such a wonderful story about my favorite band. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for taking the time to read & comment, Angela! For what it’s worth, I still work for this family from time to time.
Rarely, if ever, have I left a reply on an article. Being a huge Dave fan I was tagged by a fellow Dave fan on this article. Expecting a Dave write up, I read thinking it would be about him but it was even better. It was about a boy, a mom and the writer who worded things so emotionally that I found myself with watery eyes and a lump in my throat. I’m a mom and grandma (I’m 54, not 84) and all I could think of was how much it hurts to lose a child and the struggles that poor boy went through. DMB is a generous and kind group and stopping by is no surprise at all. They are one of the most grounded people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. I bet money that the boys were shocked and ached to know that Shaun passed so quickly after their meeting. They are all fathers and very close to their children. Great write up. My heart aches for Susan and their family.
Well stated, Wendy. On occasion, I still do work for this family. I’m always reminded of the grief they experienced and yet the grace in which they continue to live. Blessings!
Just another reason why I love this band! I shed a tear or two this morning reading your beautiful story. Thank you for sharing another reason why we #LoVE DMB!
Wow I knew that DMB was over the top wothout a doubt generous this goes above and beyond!!! Mad props to my favorite band for ever and ever!!! Love you guys so much
And from the bottom of my heart I am truly sorry about Shaun! He sounds like a cool kid! ✌️❤️
Indeed, Leanne. Thanks for commenting.
Thank you for this beautiful story. I too, experienced unfiltered compassion from Dave when I met him pre-show in 2010, a year after my beloved teenaged son died by suicide. He held me and gazed into my soul as I thanked him for his music that had carried me and my other son (1.5 years younger) thru the darkest days. He was incredibly kind and spent some time with us, reminding us that we needed to care for ourselves in this hard time, and to be sure that we knew “we will all be together in the end.” He is an avatar for love and truth.