Tonight I relived a very precious part of my life. My friend Daniel Rona asked me to talk about my connection to Israel and the writing of the oratorio THE GARDEN to the group B’nai Shalom. The Thursday before General Conference every years this group gets together and listens to various speakers with different connections to Israel. Tonight was my turn and I was amazed how vividly my memories flooded back and bathed me a special kind of joy that I believe can only come from sacred memories of sacred places.
It was interesting discovering how I felt about the allegorical oratorio I wrote with Bryce Neubert and Merrill Jenson over a decade ago. I remember when I first played the completed recording of The Garden to my wife she said, “Well, you can die now. ” It wasn’t a wish, she said, but a feeling that I probably wouldn’t ever create anything more meaningful that a work that explored the idea: What if the Garden of Gethsemane could sing? What would we learn about what happened there two thousand years ago.
After my presentation I took a trip to Primary Children’s Hospital to visit a little four year old boy in the ICU fighting cancer. Skylar’s only a couple of months older than my grandson Bucky. Although his mother said her son had had a good day, I was shaken by the image of his bloated and jaundiced little boy connected to tubes and wires and under heavy sedation.
I was inspired by his young mother who less than two years ago buried her husband who had a tumor in his heart. She was telling me every single positive and good thing that had happened that day. She pointed to the meters that registered improvement. She told me how he was looking better. Then she escorted me through the pictures of her healthy son pasted to the walls of the ICU and smiled at the remarkable little man she was proud to call her son.
Of course the scene was heart wrenching, but I also found joy there. Joy in the service of the doctors and nurses of Primary Children’s. Joy in the profound and ferocious love of a mother fighting for the life of her child. Joy that somehow my songs bought me a ticket to be where all this love and service was most vibrant and alive.
Where’s Bucky and Sadie? I need to kiss them goodnight and whisper the jewish hello and goodbye: Shalom