Growing up, the Grateful Dead always scared me just a tiny bit. Those rose adorned skull and crossbones together with the goofy looking bears was just enough put off this teeny-bopper, who favored the likes of Bread and the Lovin' Spoonful (names even my parents could understand). I learned to appreciate Dead music much later in life, and became a full-fledged fan, although I still really don't get space.
So last week I was excited when my husband invited me to the Further concert at Red Rocks. Further features what's left of the dead, including Phil Lesh and Bob Weir together with talented young musicians who ably play the parts of Jerry and other former members of the band. For the last few years my spouse had made the trip to Further without me, but with the benefit of 'special' tickets he acquired from a friend. Believing my invite included the same backstage entry, I immediately became anxious whether my current tie-dye selection was Dead-worthy. The day before the show I learned I was mistaken, and our tickets for the event, purchased with other good friends, were regular tickets, no special privileges attached. Gone was my attire anxiety along with my fleeting hope of seeing the Dead close up and personal. Still, we had the tickets so it seemed best just to make the most of the outing. Turned out my husband's only concern was how many people I had told I would meet Jerry. Even I knew that was a long shot.
When we reached our seats, somewhere (very) high above back stage, my spouse commented on the fact there sure were a lot of older people in our general vicinity. Overlooking the obvious fact we're no spring chickens ourselves - I let him know it seemed there were plenty of old folks in the front row as well. No doubt many were there merely to take advantage of the second-hand smoke at the concert that can safely be described as, well, medicinal. The crowd really was an amazing amalgam of the young, and the young at heart, a group that defies easy description. That said, I'm pretty certain there are few other shows where you can "visit" the fifth row mid-concert and have the people welcome you like a long lost relative.
The show itself was a manifestation of musical endurance. The stamina of Lesh and Weir rivaled that of any young star. After making a few guesses among ourselves, we took a minute to check out how Lesh's actual age. All did a double take when the smarter than us phone said he was 72. What I didn't know then was that Lesh jams today because in 1998 he received a liver transplant necessary to combat chronic Hepatitis C disease. Near the end of the show Lesh paid homage to his organ donor, identified only as "Cody." He encouraged everyone to consider being donors themselves. At that moment a sharp pang of grief tore through me. Just the prior week a friend, and an amazing attorney, died an untimely death primarily due to chronic liver disease. Long on the waiting list for a transplant, no donor had come through in time to save my friend.
There, under the stars was one of life's juxtapositions, a 72-year-old man able to perform well into the night standing next to the ghost of my friend. So even though I'm not quite sure if my organs would be up-to-snuff for transplant (no spring chicken and all), still I'm glad the box is checked on my license. Is it on yours? What a difference a donor makes.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member and practices real estate and natural resources law in her spare time. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.