Dear Partner Letter #29: Bless These Two

Songs & Stories From Home Episode 89


Two old friends two old men
Taking our places on an old park bench
Singing a song Paul Simon wrote back when
‘Bout two old friends

We’ve had to learn it’s not that far
Between nice to meet you and au revoir
We were young once now here we are
Two old friends

There are some things might want to change
Yet still they brought us to this place
Wouldn’t have it any other way
Then with you, old friend

The end September in 2017 Mike McCoy and I had both reached what Paul Simon referred to as that “terribly strange” age of 70.


Dear Partner,

There is a moment in many if not most stories where the protagonist (or protagonists) survive a near death experience, emerging transformed in some existential way. As I begin to write this letter, I realize not only did we each have such a moment but the proximity of those moments led to a shared one as well. Those individual and collective transformations beginning in October of 2017 ending with a joyful celebration eleven months later at your daughter, Kiesa’s, wedding.

It would begin that day at the airport. We always gather at the same place near the Alaska Airlines check in counter. You were sitting on what I think of as a shelf, your feet dangling. You were smiling and appeared relaxed. Karl had stepped away for a moment. Bob was yet to arrive. I took a place next to you on that shelf. When we meet at the airport most conversations begin by talking about traffic, weather or the early hour. Not this time.

“I have stage three prostate cancer,” were the first words out of your mouth. It was hard to focus on anything you said after that. I do remember something about inoperable and further tests. Suddenly Karl returned, Bob appeared, you and I jumped off that shelf onto the floor of a world that would never be the same.

That world still acting as if nothing had changed. In the next hour we checked the bags, went through security, walked to the gate, waited to get on the plane like so many times before.

It did occur to me that your news gave new meaning to some things you were doing or had done. A few years earlier you decided you were going to learn how to build guitars and give them away to kids. Choosing to name the business after a creek near your house, Tokul Creek Guitars. It took a while to build the shop, become a non-profit, gather enough tools, with the help of your friend, Dennis, go through the trial and error of building a guitar. Arriving at a place you felt good enough about what you were doing to begin to giving them away. You had found a new purpose.

Your daughter announced her engagement around that same time. You built her and Sean, her fiancé, a dining room table. You and Connie drove to Colorado and delivered it.


Around this table that was built by heart and hand
Around this table we will share our dreams and plans
Around this table watch our family expand
Around this table


When you were there you also talked with her honestly and openly about things you had done in your past. Some things you did when she was growing up. By talking about it before her wedding the hope was it would be a way for her to start the next phase of her life without shadows, secrets, questions, or doubts. A living example of Truth and Love made real. After the cleansing tears she gave you the greatest gift a parent can receive, she told you she knew she was always loved.


When you finished she said thanks, Dad, some more tears and then a smile
She said can’t wait to laugh with you as you walk me down the aisle
The more we know the more we know she said I know this much
It was never about me and I was always loved

You also got together and talked honestly with your son, Riley, about your past.   

The annual dinner you and I had the Monday after Thanksgiving was different that year. We didn’t say it out loud but we both wondered whether there would be a dinner next year.


We’ve been going out to dinner the Monday after Thanksgiving
going back now to 1995
Where we talk about the year that was one that’s coming
how grateful we are one more time
Then sometime in October of 2017 the news of your cancer made us both shudder
So after we had ordered we both sat there and wondered
if this was gonna be THE LAST SUPPER

You were deep into your radiation treatments in early June when I got what I would later refer to as the last wake-up call before the big sleep. I was getting ready to go to Spokane to be part of some political campaigns and spend time with my mom. I wasn’t feeling quite right. Pat took me to one of those 24 hour clinics. They quickly diagnosed a heart attack. Sunday evening, June 3rd. On Monday it was determined I needed bypass surgery.


I knew then I was sick enough to wonder was it ‘bout to be my time
And if it was were there too many loose ends I was going to leave untied
Realized there in the hospital wondering if I’d see another day
There was little left unsaid undone and so much more I’d like to do and say


I had quadruple bypass surgery that Friday. After ten days I was finally home. Because there wasn’t really any pain before the surgery my spirits had stayed pretty high. Pat and Jodie and Lindsey came through in big ways. I felt surrounded by love. You and Connie came by as you were finishing up your radiation treatments. You talked about ringing a bell after the last one that sent a message to the universe that you were cancer free.

About three weeks into my recovery I fainted. The EMT’s came. They explained that something had happened with the vagus nerve. My head just missed the edge of a table as I was heading for the floor. The road to recovery was starting to get a bit more rocky.

By early July I’d started in cardiac rehab. We celebrated Pat’s birthday the 19th. The next day was Friday. They noticed something at rehab. Off I went into the emergency room. I had developed something known as atrial flutter. Up the medicine, add a blood thinner to lower the possibility of a stroke. I was getting anxious and frightened that my heart may be badly damaged. I had an ablation on August. Eight days later went to get a heart monitor to wear for a couple weeks to see how the heart was responding. On the way there I got in a car accident. My fault. Thankfully no one was hurt. But mentally I was in a dark place. You were there the next day.


Was after the accident
Lost all my confidence
Not sure where it all went
God knows I was a mess


I called you came what a difference it made
To see your face you came you stayed
Till I got back on my feet till I could truly believe
I called you came


At the beginning of this letter I talked about how we each faced death during this time and because our experiences were so close together we also had a shared experience. Once again this wasn’t clear when we were in the midst of it all. We were both too busy doing what we could do to get better. Looking back at it I would say the time together the day after the accident was the moment for me where our individual experiences also became something more.

A heart monitor was finally installed the next day. Two days later Pat and I hosted Bob Flick’s birthday at our house. My numbers were high that morning. We wondered whether we should cancel. I am so glad we didn’t. It turned out to be one of the best ever times for the extended Brothers Four family. The four of us and our wives. Bob’s son and his family. Reed and Sharon. John and Gail. It felt so good to be together and to celebrate that day. And I will add there was one moment when you and I were talking with John and Bob and Reed. Pat told me later how emotional she became looking at the five of us. Each of us having gone through some serious health issue. And here we were an extended family filled with gratitude.

The next day my numbers were still high. I decided I wanted to have someone check the vitals. We drove to the cardiologist’s office. They weren’t that alarmed. When I got home I realized one of the reasons the numbers were askew was I’d forgotten to take my medicine that morning. At that moment any faith I had in myself was gone. I left a message with the cardio team telling them how I’d screwed up.

Pat and I had made plans to have dinner with Ted and Faith that night. We probably should have canceled, but we didn’t. I should not have not been out in public. All those old tapes that I’d hoped were obsolete were playing at max volume inside my head. The ones where the inner critic can’t shut up. Won’t leave you alone.

The nurse called the next day when Pat and I were running some errands. She hadn’t listened to the message. She wasn’t sure why I’d called. Before I could tell her about my carelessness, she told me all my numbers from the monitoring of my heart were fine. I was on track for a good recovery. There was nothing wrong. At 1:30 in the afternoon when the call was finished in front of the City Hall in Port Townsend a huge weight suddenly lifted, the voices quieted and the world lightened.

Two weeks later Pat and I took a road trip. It was a chance to visit my mom. Then we stayed a couple of nights at Yellowstone Park. The reason for the timing of the road trip was to celebrate your daughter’s wedding. And a celebration it was! For everyone.

Someone asked how long it had been since anyone had seen you dance like you danced that night. It was decided you had never danced that way before.

While it was clearly and thankfully Kiesa and Sean’s day there was also much to celebrate. For each of us. For both of us.

There is a hard lesson I learned when our friend Sands’ died all those years ago. I knew I was going to continue to do what I could to keep his spirit alive. What I did not know was how much of me was going to die with him. Those parts alive only in his memory of me.

I remember looking at you at the wedding reception. You were surrounded by family. It truly was a night to give birth to new memories. For both of us. Alive and well.

This letter ends with you singing a song you wrote for Kiesa. You sang it to her on her wedding day playing a Tokul Creek guitar.


Bless these two bless their love
May their lives together be what joy is made of
A promise true their vows declared
Joined forever in this life and love they share
Bless the dawn each day renewed
Bless the hour they joined hearts as one not two
Bless the roads once walked alone
Now come together on a new road leading home


This is a prayer from my heart
God give them each day they live
Patience and laughter caring and trust
And grant them the will to forgive

Bless their dreams concerns and cares
May the truth they seek lie in the hope they share
Bless the comfort given and received
Bless the reasons given each other to believe


This is a prayer from my heart
God give them each day they live
Patience and laughter caring and trust
And grant them the will to forgive

Now bless each one each witness who
Just by seeing them knows their love is true
They’ll testify what a love can do
And on this day on this day bless these two


This is a prayer from my heart
God give them each day they live
Patience and laughter caring and trust
And grant them the will to forgive