On January 12, 2019, I lost my sister Teri to brain cancer.
The medical term for this horrific disease is called glioblastoma.
It took her down fast. One day we were having our annual spa day and getting our heads rubbed with eucalyptus oil, the next, I was moving her to hospice.
Death doesn’t really give you any warnings, not even a heads up, because when it happens to someone you love, the shock is just so enormous. Life is short, we all hear this quote, but we don’t really take it in until that fateful day becomes personal.
Just like that, the person you love is gone, and you realize the sun still shines the next day, and the birds continue to sing, and a part of you gets a little irked that both the sun and the birds have the audacity to rise and belt out their chirps. Don’t they know that my sister just died? Life doesn’t wait for little old me; it goes on—just like our grief.
One of the things that bonded Teri and me was the love we had for music. It was such an essential part of our upbringing; it was everything. She took me to my first concert at the age of 13.
I picked the perfect outfit in case my future husband, Michael Hutchence, would see me screaming with teenage angst from the side of the stage. Our INXS T-shirts cropped and hanging over our shoulders, black eyeliner smudged from our desperate I love you tears, a million bracelets adorning our forearms, our short frizzy hair lacquered with a whole bottle of Aqua Net (thank god no one lit a cigarette near us our we would have blown ourselves to pieces). I’m sure that would have gotten Michael’s attention though.
The year was 1983, and it was one of the best memories I have with her.
Teri was the concert queen; there wasn’t a show she didn’t go see. I remember she had over 1,000 ticket stubs that she would save and plaster on her bedroom door. We were even presidents of the Duran Duran fan club.
I remember one April afternoon we got mail, postage stamped with the Queens face in the right-hand corner. “OMG, it’s from London, it’s from the fab five themselves, they must of read our millions of letters, and Simon must have gotten the photos from the chocolate cake we baked him.”
I screamed so loud my neighbor thought I was getting murdered. It turned out it wasn’t from Duran Duran, just a generic typed response from the fan club headquarters in Birmingham. But still…
Cut to 35 years later, and of all the concerts and musicians in between, Teri had a favorite: Dave Grohl.
I think she saw the Foo Fighters play more than the Foo Fighters did. Her last concert was the Foo Fighters when they came to Phoenix that fall. She had every album, every interview, and tour dates saved in her phone. She was a big fan. So much so that she only wanted to hear the “Concrete and Gold “ album in the hospital room the last week of her life.
A year before she got sick, I told Teri that Dave Grohl’s kids went to my daughter Ruby’s school.
Did I think maybe we could score some tickets to one of their shows, and maybe even meet the band? I never did contact him, but now with my sister having only days to live, what was a girl to do? There won’t ever be that concert, but maybe something else?
Nah…what were the odds that I would get in contact with him, and he’d happen to be in town, not on tour somewhere on the other side of the planet, or even read or receive my email. I did have the school directory, so I did have access to his email.
He doesn’t know my daughter or me, but as I sat at the end of my sister’s hospital bed, nurses taking turns with her vitals, doctors coming in and out of the room with hospice papers in hand, I decided to say, “what the f*ck,” and tried to contact the one person who meant so much to Teri and whose music made her so happy.
I excused myself and walked down the cold and unwelcoming hallways of the hospital. I slid down a wall next to the elevators and wrote Mr. Grohl an email.
My name is Lisa, and my daughter is a student at our school. I’m writing to you today. I’m sitting on a hospital floor in Phoenix with three hours of sleep in the last four days.
My sister Teri was diagnosed with stage four Glioblastoma eight weeks ago and is now being transferred to hospice. We have maybe one more day. She is 49. She’s leaving an eleven-year-old son and her husband. We are devastated. We are in shock; it’s all surreal.
She is probably one of your biggest fans ever. There is not an album, concert, an interview that she has not listened to, raved about, or cried to. We are all in the hospital listening to Concrete and Gold. We asked her what she wanted to listen to, and of course, she said in a whisper, “Give me some Foo’s.”
Music connects us all, really. I’m asking if you could send a text? An email? just to put a smile on her face. It would mean the world to her. And if not…no hard feelings, glad I tried. Life is too short for any regrets.
I hope this wasn’t intrusive either. I just thought, “ Why the f*ck not?” I hope you had a lovely new year, wishing you and your family so much love and light.
Lisa & Teri
I walked back into the room as Teri was nodding off. About 15 minutes passed, and my phone rang. I glanced at my phone and didn’t recognize the number, so I let it go to voicemail.
The message was from Dave Grohl. Okay, I know what you all must be thinking, “Yeah, not a big deal, your kids go to the same school, so you have that in common. Of course, he would want to help out. He’s been quoted as the nicest guy in rock & roll. I’m not some random crazy fan—blah blah blah.”
But, what were the odds, given this timely manner of sorts?
It was a Tuesday afternoon, and I emailed his wife (school didn’t have his email). She happened to get it, read it, and sent it to her husband within 15 minutes of me sending it off.
She could have waited to phone her husband; he might have been on tour, in a meeting, recording in the studio, busy being Dave, who knows?
I wasn’t even expecting such an immediate response let alone a phone call. And not just a phone call, but a call back number repeated twice, so he can talk to Teri and me.
Oh, and what was he doing? It couldn’t be that important, right? Well, he was in the studio rehearsing for the Chris Cornell tribute concert with his band, yeah…nothing too important.
The crazy part about all this, and I’m not forgetting the selfless, lovely, and amazing heartfelt desire to help out a dying fan, is the timely manner in which it all took place. Synchronicity was in the house. The energy was played out. It all happened because it was supposed to happen.
All the Ju Ju was lined up, the stars, the moons, whatever you want to call it. Dave didn’t call days, weeks, or even hours later—he called within 30 minutes of me writing the email. How do you explain that? Coincidence? No such thing.
We ended up talking. He told me something so compelling happened moments before his wife called him.
Grohl reported, “Earlier in the day, I was playing tennis with an older gentleman who happens to be a surgeon. I told him how cool it must be to heal people and sometimes save lives.” The doctor then said to him, “It’s really not much different from what you do for a living, Dave. You change people’s lives through your music. I’m sure your music has even saved, healed, and brought happiness to their lives.” Grohl continued, “Just then, at that exact moment, my phone rang, and it was my wife telling me about your sister. I believe we are all connected in this cosmic energy we call life. All six degrees of cosmic connections, this was meant to happen.”
Teri did get to hear Dave’s beautiful message, about how he was praying for her, how he wished he could be there to meet her.
That three-minute message brought her a bit of happiness. She turned to me and softly whispered under her shallow breath, “You said you were going to do something. And you did. You are awesome.”
I’m sure she has the Foo Fighters playlist on repeat in heaven.