Over a week ago when I attended The Four Tops/The Temptations concert, I ran into a friend, Bill, whom I hadn’t seen since my dear friend Alan’s memorial service in October of 2022.
During intermission, Bill and I had a chance to talk. He was also close to Alan and was the bass player in his rock and roll band. Now, Alan was not only a loyal drop-everything-to-help-you-out kind of friend to both of us, but he never failed to fish out the humor in everything, even in what could have seemed the darkest and murkiest of waters. Sometimes when I’m particularly down, I reach out to text Alan.
Bill informed me that the band reorganized about nine months after Alan’s tragic death and proceeded to tell me an interesting story. Following countless hours of rehearsal and preparation, they had recently managed to book a gig at a local night club venue.
The night of the show, Bill pulled up to the venue. He was suffering from a particularly bad case of anxiety. As he was moving his equipment from his car, he rested the sheet music for the songs they planned to play that night on the roof of his car. It was an unwise decision, especially after a wind advisory had been issued. All of a sudden, the music sheets flew wildly away. Bill was in a high-traffic area and despite his best efforts, he eventually gave up chasing after them. He felt like he had been punched in the gut, and didn’t know whether to cry or dart home.
In a flash, he heard a loud and distinct roar of laughter. It sounded somewhere between an irritated seagull and a child who was being tickled. He could pinpoint that laugh anywhere: It was Alan’s laugh!
Alan’s contagious laugh filled the air and Bill couldn’t help but join in. He raised his head to the sky and yelled sarcastically, “Oh, shut up!”
Time was running out, and now he had to deal with a band member standing right in front of him. The band member’s stern face made it clear that this was no laughing matter. But instead of panicking, the band member offered Bill a helping hand and showed him the way forward.
For Bill, the first note of the band’s set was like a portal into another dimension. Bill felt an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement. At the end of the first set, the band members were mesmerized by Bill’s performance. He had never played so well before and without any sheet music.
The band members all clamored at once. “We’ve never heard you play so well. What’s up? You even played a song we threw in that we’ve never performed. It was like you played it hundreds of times before. What’s up?”
Bill’s face lit up. “Really?” Everyone continued to stare at him in awe while waiting for his response. “I guess all the practice we did payed off, and I felt like Alan was here, playing with us.”
Everyone glanced at each other. “You mean you could hear him?” One of the band members asked, breaking the silence.
Bill nodded. “Yeah, I heard him laughing when I lost my sheet music in the wind. After that, it was like he was right here on the stage next to us.”
The band members looked at each other again, this time with smiles on their faces.
“Well, I guess we know who our lucky charm is,” one of them said, grinning.
And so, with Alan’s spirit cheering them on, the band played their hearts out that night. And the crowd loved it.
After the show, Bill was approached by a woman who told him that she had lost her husband a few years ago. She said that he had also played the bass and she kept seeing him instead of Bill.
“It was so uncanny, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. I’ve had a rough time since losing him and for the first time, I feel like there’s hope in the future that I could never see with him gone.
Bill smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “Seems like there are a lot of funny spirits around today.”
The woman smiled back. “I’m glad I came to the show,” she said. “It’s given me a lot to think about.”
Bill nodded. “Me too,” he said.
Bill smiled. “You’re welcome,” he said.
The woman smiled back and then she was gone.
Bill watched her go, before he turned and walked back to the band. They were all gathered around, talking and laughing. Bill smiled as he joined them. He knew that Alan would be proud of them.
And he knew that Alan would always be with them, in spirit. Suddenly, he understood that sometimes faith was best studied without relying on scores or written notes.