When Tom Bibey’s CD of mandolin duets with Darin Aldridge comes out, pay special attention to the opening track, Amazing Grace. It won’t have the polish of a studio recording, but it will have more than enough raw emotion and energy to compensate. The song was recorded Sunday on Tom’s back porch — just days after he learned he has a brain tumor. Brooke Aldridge joined in, as did Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson.
The CD is just one of numerous projects Dr. Tom has lined up for later this year and beyond. There’s a mandolin instruction book for children and the much-anticipated follow-up to his first novel, The Mandolin Case. And, most importantly, his first grandchild, a boy, is due in October.
Dr. Tom, as he is widely known, has been telling friends and readers of his blog about his condition in a frank, just-the-facts manner for days, but this morning his report was welcomingly upbeat. “OK guys, I have a treatable brain tumor,” he wrote on his blog. “There are documented cures of my disease, and not just sporadic ones.”
He was similarly upbeat in a message he sent me last night to share with readers of Bluegrass Today:
“I have concern but no fear. I have faith, a secure place in Eternity, the best family and the world’s finest extended music family – bluegrass. Combine that with great docs and nurses and I have as good a chance as anyone could have.”
I’ve only known Dr. Tom for a short time, since we both served as correspondents for Bluegrass Today at IBMA last year. But I feel like I’ve known him forever. I still carry the $2 bill he gave me in my wallet, and I think about him every time I sing that song about losing all my money. These last few days I’ve been singing it a lot in tribute to this wonderful character.
There is a long road ahead for Dr. Tom, including chemotherapy. The early stages of his disease and treatment have affected Tom’s close-up vision and have left him too weak to hold a Fender Telecaster to play country music, but his sense of humor and sense of what is right are still intact. The other day he wrote a song called The Brain Tumor Blues, which he dedicated to “my doctors, my nurses and to anyone who suffers.” And while he asks for prayers, he said he doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him. Save that, he asked, for those without resources to fight their illnesses and for children with cancer and other serious diseases.
At one point in the song, he sums his philosophy for dealing with the tumor and getting on with his life:
“There’s doctoring to do and stories to tell, still so many songs to play I’ve just got to stay.”
In a message about that recording of Amazing Grace, he wrote, “Let the healing begin.”
Amen, Dr. Tom. Amen.