Music matters


I have been playing music in some form or fashion since I was a kid. I grew up in Kentucky and have listened to Bluegrass most my life, but never got around to playing it seriously. Once I quit playing hard rock, I dropped my pick and played with my fingers 90% of the time. Finally, I got around to pursuing Bluegrass. I have been fortunate to have been learning Bluegrass from Ben since last summer. At times, I feel kind of silly spending hours a day working on it. I am not going to be a professional musician. I don’t really enjoy “performing” that much, but I do love playing with others and I love playing. I have been giving group lessons to help beginner and intermediates get on their way. But still, it seemed like I could perhaps be better spending my time.

At the end of February, my Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My parents live in Tennessee and I live in Texas, so I couldn’t be there all the time. When I wasn’t there, I started recording songs and sending them to my parents. My tendency is to nit-pick every little thing and try to get recordings perfect, but now, I was up against the clock. I just got the songs recorded quickly and sent them on their way. My parents couldn’t care less that the playing and recordings weren’t perfect. They still enjoyed them greatly.

I hadn’t written music for years, but after my first trip to see Mom after the diagnosis I was sitting in Nashville’s airport with 3 hours to kill while waiting after a missed flight and I felt compelled. In my usual fashion, I tinkered with it for days, but it wasn’t near being done, so I didn’t record it. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago, Mom started to have paralysis and seemed to be heading downhill. The flights were full until the next day, so I recorded the song I wrote and sent it to my parents. Mom did not get the email, but a few days later I got to sing it for her in person. It was an imperfect song played and sung in an imperfect way, but it was the most important song of my life. I recall seeing my Mom cry only three times, and when I finished the song was one of the three. As the disease progressed, her ability to move and communicate went away. But to whatever extent she could express it at a given moment, she let me know that she loved for me to play for her. So I played.

Mom was a very private person and she didn’t want a funeral. We had planned for a celebration of life party to be held last Saturday (April 28th). It would allow Mom to spend some time with family and friends. She was quite excited about the party. Unfortunately, things progressed much quicker than anticipated and she didn’t make it. Mom passed away last week, but we decided to have the party anyway. She had asked me to play for the party, and of course I did. It was a beautiful day, and even though she wasn’t physically there I think Mom was probably enjoying it somehow.

I am 43 years old, so hopefully I have many more things to accomplish. But as I look back at my life, music has been part of some of the most meaningful relationships and events of my life. I have made lifelong friends through music. I have played for friend’s weddings and funerals, I help people worship through music. But music was never more personally meaningful than for what it allowed me to do with my Mother in her final days. When I didn’t have the words to describe how much she meant to me, music helped get me closer to being able to do so. So in case you (like me) were wondering if all the time we spend on music is worth it, I wanted to you to know that it most certainly can be.

If you have any stories to describe how music has made a difference in your life, I encourage you to share them in this forum.



That was an absolutely touching story, I’m glad you got to play your song for her.

I’m sorry for your loss.


Man, I could barely finish reading your post, Mike, because my eyes were misting up so bad. I’m lucky enough to still have my mom alive, but much of what you wrote rang true for me. Music is worthwhile precisely because of how it allows us to connect emotionally with others, and like you, I think it’s easier to express my feelings in song than with just words.

I don’t have any obvious reason for spending so much time on flatpicking, either. I guess I mean I don’t have any monetary reason for doing so, but the older I get, the less worthwhile it seems to arrange my life around maximal financial efficiency, anyway. I play because of the joy I get out of it. I just like the way it makes me feel, even if I’m the only one in the room.

Thanks for sharing such a personal story. Just last week my mom said she wanted to start singing with me more. Now, I’m gonna make sure that happens.

BTW, it’s good to have you back on the site. I’ve been missing your encyclopedic knowledge of acoustic guitars.


Wow, this thread guys. Sorry for your loss. Excuse me, I have something in my eye.


Thanks for all the kind thoughts.
Larry, that is awesome that your Mom wants to sing with you. My mother in law plays guitar… the next time she is down I think I am going to see if I can talk her into recording a bit. That recording would be priceless for me and my wife. Thanks for welcoming me back and the kind words. However, if I have an encyclopedic knowledge, it’s just one tiny portion of one page of the encyclopedia. The nice thing about forums like this is the collective knowledge of all the various members. I have learned a great deal from your posts and I thank you for it.

Ben… where to start? Great post. Thank you. I don’t know anyone else who fakes a stroke at the table. At least not anyone older than 12. That’s hilarious. She sounds like an incredibly special woman. I am glad you knew her well and I am sorry for your loss. I wish I could have met her. It will forever change my mindset when I listen to you all singing “Grandma’s Garden.” I didn’t get through some of my songs without losing it, but for some reason it wasn’t embarrassing. I don’t know who I got the crybaby gene from, but I got it, and much like your Granny, I am sure Mom understood. I think your poem is perfect as it is. It may be because of my current mindset, but it is one of my favorite poems I have ever read. Thanks for sharing that. If you don’t mind, I would like to share that with my immediate family. Last but not least, thank you for the verse you chose to include. It was more perfect than you could have known. For the last few weeks, I have been vamping on John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Thanks again for all of your kind thoughts


Wow .I’m sitting in a Penske truck rental in Sacramento,Ca getting my truck serviced cring like a five year old boy over a matchbox car. Thanks for the good cry I need that.(LOL)


There’s too much crying here. I’m going over to the Huntin’ and Fishin’ thread to see if I can pump up my testosterone level. :smiley:


Thanks for sharing these personal and very touching moments. I too teared up a bit so for now I’ll join you in the fishin’ forum to regain my composure.


Man, 2 tough stories/events that are hard to swallow.

I lost my father to cancer 3 years ago. Dad was the Bluegrass player in the family and he had 7 siblings that likewise played. Although I kind of despised bluegrass in my teen years I eventually found myself staring bluegrass in the face nearly 6 or 7 years ago in my mid 30’s and it seemed funny that I had came full circle and landed on bluegrass.

Dad taught me the basics of guitar (open chords and 2 strum patterns) and said “now the rest is up to you and if you want to learn it then you will do so yourself”. Well I did and I would love to have him around now in order for him to hear how much “better” I have become in my flat picking. I did manage to learn a mean version of “Blackberry Blossom” to a level that was acceptable/good and got to play that for him before he passed on, but man o’ man would I love to be able to pick a tune and play with or for him now.

Both of you should feel good about getting the chance to play the music, I sometimes felt I got short-changed in the fact that I lost him when he was only 65.

My sister played a little bit (piano/guitar strummer)but is an amazing singer. It was known by the family that she would get dads 1941 Gibson J-55 as a family heirloom as this instrument was originally his mothers whom strung it upside down as she was left handed and likewise my sister and I both are left handed but it was a females guitar and the grandmother so the granddaughter was the likely heir . I was surprised when mom told me that the guitar would be passed onto me as dad changed his mind as I would respect/appreciate the guitar much more than my sister. With a glance over to my sister in not knowing what to expect I was surprised to here her say “Don’t look at me, you know that guitar belongs with you”.

Nothing would be better than to have him as company, grab the Gibson and say “Now listen to this old man, this is gonna blow your socks off”…maybe someday!



I don’t really have the words to describe how reading this thread made me feel this morning. I’m glad to know that real men can cry and if and when we do, it can be so refreshing and put life back into perspective. I will have a much better day today since browsing into this thread.I too have recently felt that i’m “robbing or wasting” my time by practicing too often, but look forward to the day that my playing puts a smile or even a tear on a loved ones face…thanks so much for this one guys.

God bless


— Begin quote from "Oldhat"

Nothing would be better than to have him as company, grab the Gibson and say “Now listen to this old man, this is gonna blow your socks off”…maybe someday!


— End quote

Some glad morning, Oldhat. Won’t that be great?

Thank you


Thanks for sharing the stories of your loved ones who passed. It’s very nice that you’ve remembered them with music and that they continue to inspire and support you. When my Granny passed away, I wrote a song about her funeral. Once I figure out how to post music files, I’ll like to share that too.


just read this thread …brought tears to my eyes too …I just lost my Father this past January to cancer …he didnt play anything instrument wise but he loved bluegrass …i was anti-bluegrass as a teen …but it always held a place in my heart …and I love it now and just think part of my working on it so hard is to honor Dad’s memory …either way im gonna keep picking if for nothing else than my enjoyment and love of it . sorry for everyone’s losses …it is so hard to lose the ones we love …but i know Dad’s in a better place now …


Thanks for the post Ron. Sorry for the loss of your Father. It is interesting that part of you working on bluegrass is to honor him. More than any other type of music I can think of, bluegrass has many great tunes about loss and nostalgia such as “Last Old Shovel” and “The old home place.” The day my Dad called to say Mom had passed was on a Sunday morning as I was getting ready to go to church. I knew that call was coming as I had just been there and I knew it couldn’t be too long. After I got off the phone, I felt compelled to play “I’ll fly away.” I hadn’t played that song much for a while, but it seems to pop up fairly regularly now. Music has an interesting way of getting woven into feelings and memories. And I guess the opposite is true as well, our personal memories and feelings get attached to songs.


thanks Mike …yeah bluegrass/country definitely have the good old songs that can take you to a place and tear at the heart strings …I played and sang “Daddy’s Hands” at my Dad’s funeral …was tough the few days practicing it leading up to it …couldnt get through it without crying …but the Good Lord helped me with it that day and i got through it …Im not much of a singer but i did ok …I love " Ill Fly Away" and so many other gospel songs …sorry again for your loss Mike …I miss Dad every day…


I don’t know why I haven’t seen this thread until now. I am sorry for everyones losses. It does seem kind of funny in a way that music has bonded so many families together. I have never thought about it being a bond in my own family, but now that I do think about it, I can see that it is.

I am 47 years old and I am blessed to still have both of my parents. They are both 72 years old. If time continues on I know that there will be a time they will leave this walk of life. It may be that I go before them, we never know. But we do know it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement. It is coming to all of us. We should use every bit of time we have here very wisely.

This gives me new inspiration for my music.