|With fellow Naperville Sun storyteller Genevieve Towsley|
Today I am announcing that I am suspending my public musical appearances as of Jan. 1, 2015.
The reasons for this are many. First, I have been selected to become a volunteer for the Joliet Area Community Hospice. Volunteers provide companionship to people near the end of their lives. I consider this an opportunity to give back to my community, and out of respect for the privacy of the people I will spend time with I think it's best if I keep my thoughts to myself.
I suspect the time commitment will be substantial, but I can think of no better way to spend the time I have. I'm a good listener, and I hope to collect stories that, at the appropriate time, I hope to share with you. I think I have a chance to gain a greater understanding of the meaning of life through this experience. I've always believed myself to be first and foremost a writer, though I'm considerably enjoying the progress I'm making as a performer.
The rigors of preparing for regular public performances are considerable, and since my own near-death experience I've learned to know my limitations. The hassles of arranging bookings, coordinating schedules with other musicians, practicing material, promoting shows and the like require a great deal of time. That's the time I choose to spend providing comfort to others instead.
I look forward to--at some point in the future--crafting quality, lasting stories of the people I meet. They may be in the form of songs, or journalistic-like chronicles. I used to write fiction in college--maybe I'll try that again. Whatever the form, I hope to be inspired to create something great as an outcome. But I'm entering this effort with a spirit of complete dedication to volunteerism and will respect the protocols set by the hospice. I undergo a comprehensive two-day training session on Oct. 25-26.
I considered volunteering several months ago, when I was still on medical leave following a near-fatal heart attack in February. I applied at the hospice, but there's a long waiting list. There are many opportunities to volunteer, and I wanted to serve my local community. There are options like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties, shelters that serve homeless people and myriad other services. I chose hospice because it felt like a good fit for my skills and what I want to accomplish, which is to simply be empathetic toward others.
Joliet Area Community Hospice provides compassionate, professional care to terminally ill patients and their families. It has served more than 17,000 patients since 1982 in greater Will, Grundy, and Kendall counties along with parts of Cook, DuPage and Kankakee counties. At any given time, more than 200 trained volunteers provide companionship to people in their homes or at a facility off McDonough Street--the first freestanding hospice home in Illinois. From 1992 to 2009, executive director was Duane Krieger, father of Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger.
I intend to continue my private lessons with guitarist Kev Wright of The Righteous Hillbillies, but figure the time I spend playing in my basement is better spent than in front of an audience for a while. I will miss my weekly appearances at Wednesday night acoustic open mic at Tribes Alehouse in Mokena, hosted by John Condron. However, I'm now comfortable with my proficiency at playing all types of music in front of friends or complete strangers.
I may occasionally--perhaps during times when work is not as intense--break my self-imposed cloister and perform music in public. I'll see how it goes. If asked I'd very much like to perform next summer at Tim Placher's Shindig at the Shanty and at Joliet's Hopstring Fest. I may also post music videos to my YouTube channel every so often. I intend to remain active on social media--I just won't have as much to say because I'll be spending time volunteering and I don't intend to talk about that while I'm doing it.
I hope to gain a greater appreciation for end-of-life care and note that while I expect my incredible 88-year-old mother to continue living independently for some time I realize our remaining time together may be short. She's much on my mind, as are all my friends, family and loved ones.
Stay tuned for details about a farewell performance at Chicago Street Pub on Saturday, Dec. 20.