I’m Gonna Shine Til the Light Goes Out

We’ll smile and Reminisce
About the good old days
When we meet again
Doesn’t matter how or when
My heart will still be yours
When we meet again.

David Thomas is a singer/songwriter and actor in Nashville. He’s traveled the country, appeared in a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band video, done TV spots, acted in plays, shared a tour bus Marie Osmond, played on the Grand Ole Opry stage and made great friends along the way. He’s learned a lot too, and one of his oldest friends says this phase of his life is the most positive she’s ever seen him. At 63, David hasn’t stopped making new friends or creating music – not even for a diagnosis that makes each day uncertain.

David is living in Alive’s residence in Nashville where his friendly nature and loving curiosity about everyone around him have earned him plenty of new friends. He leaves his door open for drop-in visitors and tours the residence to chat with staff throughout the day. His keyboard and guitar take center stage in his room, and he’ll sing for you, if you ask.

During the course of an hour one morning, he received check-ins from the chaplain (who came to share a joke), the dietician (who wanted to see if he liked his breakfast grits and tell him there would beef tips and pineapple upside down cake for lunch), his nurse, and his aide (who wanted to know if he liked the hand lotion she brought him). He’s always been outgoing, and a friend reveals he was voted “Biggest Flirt” in eighth grade.

“With his diagnosis, you’d think he’d be depressed, but he’s been super upbeat and positive,” says David’s friend of fifty years, Christine Jesperson.

“My thing is, I have no illusions about what is going to happen, but I don’t have to do it in a morose, horrible, pity party kind of way,” says David. “I am working on a song right now, I’m Gonna Shine Til the Light Goes Out. Who knows how long I have in lucidity, but I am gonna make the most of it. I want to give back as much as I can before I go.”

One of the ways David is giving back is by educating others about hospice care and his experience with Alive. “I want people to know they don’t have to be afraid of it…there’s a lot of happiness here. The care is first-class, compassionate, comfortable, loving. I’ve made friends here, and they’ve treated me like gold.”

David and social worker Henry Moore. David is wearing a hat crocheted by an Alive volunteer who makes many things for our patients.

In addition to regular Facebook posts, he’s also sending the message through his favorite medium, music. When David first received his diagnosis, he knew he had to tell one of his oldest and dearest friends, Christine, and he knew it wouldn’t be easy. The two met in Junior High and have been close friends for fifty years. “I told her, don’t worry, I’ll see you again very soon. But she wasn’t ready for any of that.”

He started writing a song about it, inspired by his faith and their friendship. David shared what he had come up with so far and asked Christine to collaborate. Together, they wrote When We Meet Again, which they hope will bring comfort to anyone coping with the loss of a loved one.

The creative endeavor wasn’t their first. Christine and David’s friendship started with a mutual case of puppy love at twelve-years-old. Christine recalls her first slow dance was with David (to the song Color My World). Over the years, that early connection morphed into a deep and hugely positive friendship. They’ve supported each other on their personal  journeys and enjoyed some fun adventures together, including road trips and visits with school friends. While David was in an assisted living facility, they brainstormed a sitcom script, coming up with outrageous ideas to make each other laugh. Christine told David he owed her a trip down the red carpet, and he delivered.

Chaplain David Guy and David. The Davids enjoy talking philosophy together and comparing socks.

“I pulled into the nursing home to visit one day, and there was a limo just sitting there. I thought, ‘What is it doing here?’”

“Then I saw our friend Scott with a dozen red roses, and sure enough, David came out all dressed up. They took us to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch. Then the driver pulled out a piece of red carpet, and he rolled it out,” Christine laughs. “We walked down it waving! It was a total surprise. We laughed so hard! David really blew me away. I called all my girlfriends who went to school with us and said, ‘You’ll never believe what David did!’”

Hospice Aide Glenda Clemmons and David showing off their hat collections.

David focuses on love and gratitude to stay grounded in the hard times. “With the dementia, I have a fear of not recognizing people I love. I have a joke about it: Knock, knock. Who’s there? I can’t remember!”

“Sometimes I cry. I don’t try to stop it. It doesn’t take long. When I feel sad, I think of my love. I pray. I have four kids and eleven grandkids. I live for talking to them. I have my guitar and keyboard and all these people around me; I’m blessed. I’m so lucky that I get to have these relationships.”

Creating this new song is one more way David is staying connected to the good things in his life and sharing them with others. “I’m accepting of my diagnosis. This isn’t all there is. You move on, and you do see the people you love again. In Peter Pan Tinkerbell says, ‘Don’t say goodbye because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.’ This song is about accepting and remembering. It is a gift from God to both of us. I want it to bring other people hope.”

 

 

When We Meet Again
Christine Jespersen
David Leslie Thomas
Broadcast Copyright 2022

 

Well, here we are
We’re both moving on
Everything we were
At least for now it’s gone
So you’re on your way
Sadly I go mine
We’re at the point we’ve got no choice
But there will come time

(Chorus)

When we meet again
In another place
We’ll smile and Reminisce
About the good old days
When we meet again
Doesn’t matter how or when
My heart will still be yours
When we meet again.

I hope that fate is kind
And all your dreams come true.
There’s a brand new world out there
Waiting just for you
If I had one wish
I’d change it if I could
I know the best is yet to come
You’ll see we’ll see it through.