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How Country Music Helped Her Heal

She learned that her anonymous tissue donor also loved country music. Had he given her the gift of music as well?

Courtney Elwood

Brandy? I didn’t recognize the name that had shown up in my inbox, but I opened the email anyway. “I’m reaching out to you on behalf of my family,” Brandy wrote. “I’m sorry it took us so long to respond to your letter, but this year since my father died has been difficult.”

I realized then who Brandy was. Her father had been my anonymous donor. One year earlier, I’d injured my knee and underwent an allograft ACL reconstruction surgery. Allograft meant that the new, grafted tissue would not come from my own body but from a donor. After surgery a nurse had handed me a pamphlet titled About Your Donor. She said my donor was deceased and anonymous. “But some people like to send a thank you to the family through the hospital,” she explained.

It seemed like an important thing to do with my time. I’d planned to spend my recovery trying to teach myself to play country music on my guitar, something I’d been meaning to get around to for a long time. But country music could wait. Writing a letter to my donor’s family took priority. I chose my words carefully, letting them know how much I appreciated the donor’s generosity and how very sorry I was for their loss.

I included my email address and sent the letter to the hospital to be forwarded, but I didn’t expect an answer. Especially not a whole year later. So it meant a lot to me that the family had reached out when they were ready.

Brandy and I decided to keep in touch via Facebook. There I learned a little more about her father, Larry. “What a coincidence,” I wrote to Brandy. “My father’s name is Larry too.” She described her dad as the life of the party, the kind of person who made everyone’s day brighter. “And he just loved country music,” she said. “It was his favorite thing in the world.”

“I love country music too!” I said. “It has spoken to me ever since I was little, even though it wasn’t that popular among the kids where I grew up. Lately I’ve even been trying to pick out some country tunes on my guitar.”

I’d made surprising progress as time passed since my surgery. Eventually I posted a video on Facebook of me playing my guitar.

“Do you sing?” Brandy asked.

“Not anymore.” As a kid I’d gone to a performing arts school, where I sang all the time. I used to sing along to LeAnn Rimes in front of my bedroom mirror, imagining myself on stage in Nashville. But my interests changed when I became a teenager and switched to a regular high school, where music was just part of the curriculum, a subject like any other. My family often asked if I would ever take up singing again, but I never gave it much thought. Until now. Lately I’d been remembering how much I enjoyed it.

“My dad loved to sing,” Brandy told me. “He wasn’t shy about it at all. He was really extroverted—you actually remind me of him. It seems like fate that you got his tissue.”

We laughed about that. The more I learned about Larry, the more I thought the two of us would have been friends if we’d ever met. Maybe we would have sung together. The next time I picked up my guitar, I sang along while I practiced. That surgery hadn’t just repaired my ACL, it had awakened an old joy in me I’d thought was gone forever.

One day I came across an ad for a pop/hip-hop group looking for members. I auditioned and got in! Whenever I posted on Facebook a video of the group performing, Larry’s family cheered me on.

My confidence grew, and I felt inspired to write my own songs. Country songs, of course. I posted videos of me singing with my guitar. Somehow I caught the attention of a recording management company who invited me to come to Nashville to record. Fly to Nashville? I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

I was still shaking my head when I checked my Facebook feed a few hours later. One of those Facebook memories popped up. Turned out it was from the day I learned how much Larry loved country music. I scrolled through the old comments on the post, wondering what Larry would have thought of my new opportunity. “Country music was my dad’s favorite thing in the world,” Brandy had written. I smiled —but the next comment took my breath away. “Ha ha,” Brandy had said. “What if you started singing country music again, all thanks to my dad?”

Was it possible that Larry could have given me the gift of music as well as the tissue that had repaired my knee? Science would say no. But God wasn’t bound by science.

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