One month ago today an explosion in a backyard on Rabbit Run changed a young boy’s life forever.
We are all familiar with what happened on the evening of May 28, and the resulting struggle of Michael Hubbard to stay alive.
He’s made it, against the odds. And though he hasn’t emerged from a coma yet, his vital organs are functioning, and that’s great news. He’s off the dialysis machine, and yesterday, he came off the ventilator. He’s breathing on his own now.
I went for a visit yesterday. I knew Nancy would be waiting alone as she waited for the doctors to remove the bandages from his skin grafts and as another team of specialists took him off the ventilator. I figured she could use the company.
And I wanted to bring her the “prayer ball” that Liz Stokes of the Riverhead library had entrusted to my care for delivery to Nancy and Michael. It was signed by dozens of people, who laid hands on the soft plastic orb and prayed. Once in his room, Liz assured me, the prayers would work miracles. Well, it sure can’t hurt, anyway.
Nancy has amazing strength and a resilient faith. She is tired, and it shows. She hasn’t been home since the accident — sleeping, eating, showering at the hospital. She hardly leaves her son’s bedside.
Sitting in the family room on 11 South, as doctors worked to remove Michael’s ventilator tube, Nancy and I had a special treat. An angel-minstrel, Tom Chapin — who despite his own success, including a Grammy Award, is still tagged with “you know, Harry Chapin’s brother?” — was making the rounds of pediatric ICU, singing to the patients and their families.
Nancy told Chapin the story of what happened to her son, and he said he had a special song for him. He began strumming his guitar and sang “Story of a Life.” I had my little Powershot in my purse and pulled it out in time to record Tom’s serenade, which made Nancy and me both cry.
Here’s the video, with the lyrics to the song, which I found online, reprinted below. Enjoy it. It seems like it’s a message written especially for Michael. And I hope that someday, in the not-too-distant future, Michael will watch it and enjoy it too.
by “Tom Chapin”
Young boy open up your eyes
It’s supposed to be your day
Now off you go horizon bound
And you won’t stop until you’ve found
Your own kind of way
And the wind will whip your tousled hair
The sun, the rain, the sweet despair
Great tales of love and strife
Somewhere on your path to glory
You will write your story of a life
And all the towns that you walk through
And all the people that you talk to
Sing you their songs
And there are times you change your stride
There are times you can’t decide
Still you go on
And then the young girls dance their gypsy tunes
And share the secrets of the moon
So soon you find a wife
And though she sees your dreams go poorly
Still she joins your story of a life
Story of a life, story of a life
So you settle down and the children come
And you find a place that you come from
Your wandering is done
And all your dreams of open spaces
You find in your children’s faces
One by one
And all the trips you know you missed
And all the lips you never kissed
Cut through you like a knife
And now you see stretched out before thee
Just another story of a life
So what do you do now?
When she looks at you now?
You know those same old jokes
All the jesters tell
You tell them to her now
And all the same old songs
All the minstrels sang
You sing ‘em to her now
But it don’t matter anyhow
‘Cause she knows by now
So every chance you take don’t mean a thing
What variations can you bring
To this shopworn melody
And every year goes by like a tollin’ bell
It’s battered merchandise you sell
Not well, she can see
And though she’s heard it all a thousand times
Couched in your attempted rhymes
She’ll march to your drum and fife
But the question echoes up before me
Where’s the magic story of a life?
Story of a life, story
Well, I’ve found sometimes words can serve me well
Sometimes words can go to hell
For all that they do
And for every dream that took me high
There’s been a dream that’s passed me by
I know it’s so true
And I can see it clear out to the end
And I’ll whisper to her now again
Because she shared my life
For more than all the ghosts of glory
She makes up the story
She’s the only story
Of my life
Copyright Chapin Music