A Life Well Lived


I put together a house concert for a friend on Friday, November 28th (the day after Thanksgiving). I could tell you the whole story, but one of the songwriters who sang said it so well that I thought I’d pass his words along. I’ll add more at the end of his note.

(A note from Pete Sallis, Tuesday, 12/2/08 @ 10:09 PM)

A life well lived…

The day after Thanksgiving, I was asked along with Nicole Witt, Brian White, and Billy Montana, to fly down to Dallas. Celia Whitler asked us to come down to play our songs to celebrate Celia’s friend Kathleen Baskin-Ball. Kathleen has been bravely battling cancer for a couple years now to find out that it had spread. So, what did Kathleen decide to do with her 10 or so days she was told she had left? Celebrate!! One of the many things she loved was music, so she wanted to spend last Friday night with family, friends, and music. We arrived to find the street lined with cars that any valet service would be jealous of, a lawn filled with white paper bags lit up with candles inside and inspirational messages written on the outside, and a sweet quaint house right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. We were greeted by a smiling Kathleen in the front yard, so gracious that we would fly down and take the time out to come and play for her. Just one look at her and you felt like you’d known her your whole life. Her eyes were bright and her spirit was on fire – soaking up every moment like a flower savors the rain.

Walt Wilkins drove a couple hours from Austin to be a part of the evening because he’d heard how much of a fan Kathleen was of his. In all, we ended up playing a couple hours of songs that were funny, reverent, emotional, and uplifting. Throughout the night, I couldn’t help but notice how tears would suddenly hit different people, and how unique laughter looked when mixed with the fresh remnants of tears. It was a surreal experience to say the least. We ended the night listening to Nicole singing a stirring acapella “Oh Holy Night”, and divine it truly was. As we packed up our guitars, Kathleen asked me what my favorite food was and I said lasagna is in my top 5 – to which I thought she was going to wrap up some of the leftovers from the kitchen – and she said “..I’ll make sure its ready and warm when you get to heaven…” It was hard to keep it together, but how can you break down when the one who has every right to lose it is smiling with a blessed assurance that all is well.

I can only pray that I would have an ounce of the dignity that Kathleen showed us all that night. We all have a terminal disease called “life” that none of us will escape. Some might even think its a blessing to know when you’re gonna go so that you could live like you’re dying. Well, everyday is a gift and every day we have a choice to unwrap it or leave it under the tree. So I pray for all of us to make the most of what God has given us and cherish what really matters. It ain’t “the next song we write” or what “artist is cutting” or “the best gig or songwriting deal”, like Kathleen knew, its family, friends, and the quality of experience we soak in that make up this short but colorful fabric called life.

So we all came back a little different and changed for the better, moved by Kathleen’s faith, and nudged a little bit to try and be more like her. It is with a solemn heart to say I found out today that she left this earth to go be with God. My prayers are for her husband Bill, her 4-year-old son Skyler, her family, and the multitude of friends whose lives were brushed with the presence of an angel’s wings.

(* This is Celia again)…. The house concert was incredibly rich. It was about life, not about loss.

I have been fortunate to journey with Kathleen for the last two decades of our lives. I am thankful to her husband, Bill, her son Skyler and their families who have been so gracious to let me be a part of Kathleen’s courageous battle with cancer. It has been filled with laughter, tears, grace, faithfulness, sadness and hope. I was humbled to be with her for her last breath and also to celebrate her life at her memorial service.

During these last two years, I have prayed for a miracle and know in my heart a true miracle happened. Those of us who were touched by Kathleen’s life and faith, who believe as she did that “light will have the last word” know that she was the miracle … the way she lived… the way she loved…the way she shared her faith and spoke of the love and truth of Christ she bore witness to daily…the way she believed in the wonder of God’s unrelenting grace. She once wrote to me, “I thank God that our paths crossed and then in awesome unity moved straight toward all that is holy.” I feel the same way about her.

Thank you to Pete, Nicole, Billy, Brian, Walt and Ron for more than a wonderful night… for being a part of a journey that changed us all.

LINKS: I brought six songwriters’ to the concert. Here are links in case you want to sample a little of the flavor that we shared that Friday night in the living room.

Billy Montana
Pete Sallis
Brian White
Walt Wilkins
Nicole Witt

Four other singers and/or songwriters joined us that night: Doug and Jill Bryan (from Greenland Hills UMC, a former church Kathleen had served) and Katlyn Baskin and Jessica Newport (two of Kathleen’s nieces).

Here’s a link to a collection of information about Kathleen’s life and ministry, including several items from the Dallas Morning News.

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