Nick loves music and he loves to sing. He knows hundreds of songs with all of their verses. We will sing together, sometimes for hours, but he usually won’t sing for others.
Years ago we were at a party honoring our friend Paddy Bogside Doherty in Derry City, Northern Ireland. Paddy had been awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Ulster, because of his legendary civil rights work in Northern Ireland. As is the tradition in Ireland, a sing song had started and Nick wanted to sing also.
Arden and I tried to quiet him, but Paddy said, “Let the man sing.” Nick wanted to sing one of his favorite songs, ‘the Town I loved so Well.’ It had been written by Phil Coulter, a famous son of Derry City himself. The song tells the story of the difficult time during The Troubles and the immutable spirit of the local Irish. It is a long song with many verses.
Paddy pulled up a chair across the room from Nick, and all of a sudden the room was very quiet. Everyone was paying complete attention. I was worried that Nick would get nervous or shy. Arden and I each knelt down beside him in case he needed any help. He didn’t. He sang the whole song, in full voice, with an amazing smile on his face looking straight at his friend Paddy the whole time.
Arden and I wouldn’t have been any help anyway. We were both sitting there with tears streaming down our faces. We couldn’t have sung a note. When Nick was finished, Paddy loudly declared, “this clearly disabled Yank just sang our song to us.” Another voice rang out saying, “I don’t think that I know all the words.”
During the sustained applause for Nick’s s rendition of their local anthem, Paddy stood up, with tears in his own eyes, walked across the room to embrace Nick. I heard him whisper in Nick’s ear, ‘Thank you, son, thank you.” Nick kept nodding at him, not speaking.
Over the years, Paddy would mention that night with great fondness whenever we visited him. He said that Nick had impressed many of his friends that were there that night.
Nick continues to teach us. He clearly understood the importance of that song to Paddy and being brave, he overcame his own fear as he honored his friend that night. I try to be brave, when faced with fearful situations. “If Nick can do it,” I tell myself, “I can do it.”
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