It is hard for me to capture the chaos that dominated our lives between December of 2009 and the inaugural Lilli Trippe Head Shave. The Winter and early Spring of 2010 were hard on Lilli. Our entire family spent the better part of four months in the hospital, floating randomly back and forth between oncology and the pediatric ICU. During that time, Lilli relapsed once, she died twice, and slowly lost (and regained) her ability to talk, to eat and to walk. I didn’t see an honest smile cross her face for longer than I want to remember. But against every odd, Lilli healed. Yonder Mountain String Band, their friends, fans, and family rooted her on. In case you weren’t there, in January of 2010, Yonder Mountain went on tour. Night after night they rallied their fans around Lilli by asking them to send their love, their energy, and their prayers. And while it may not seem intuitive to ask a bunch of dancing hippies to send prayers, it is. Because for some people, in lots of ways, dancing is prayer. And Lilli felt it from a thousand miles away.
Lilli was an amazing kid. She had natural wisdom and spunk that sparked a special light. But even with this bright and steady will…..she didn’t emerge from that winter alone. She emerged by harnessing every drop of energy and strength and love that was sent to her bedside.
I’m sure that if you are reading this, that you understand the powerful magic of music. That music inspires, and calms, and guides us. That our narratives are sometimes so interwoven with song that we can’t disarticulate the memory. Lilli especially loved two songs that Yonder Mountain sang. Darling One, a Jeff original and Oh La La, a Rod Stewart cover masterfully sung by Ben. From the time that she was born, Lilli could be howling and crying and throwing a fit, but you could play Oh La La from the Fox Theater on 3-11-2007, and that girl would swoon. It wasn’t any different in the ICU. When Lilli’s heart raced out of control, we played these songs on my macbook, and watched her heart rate instantly decrease and her vitals come back to normal. During Yonder Mountain Cabin Fever Tour of 2010, nearly every night had an Oh La La or a Darling One. Sent to Lilli directly from the band so we wouldn’t have to play a two-song playlist on endless repeat. Best. Medicine. Ever.
Over those four months, I can’t count how many times I lied beside Lilli and held her and told her not to breathe….that there were machines to breathe for her. I told her not to work hard…. that there were medications working hard on her behalf. Instead, all she had to do was just hold on. That all the love and strength and healing that she needed surrounded her. All she had to do was reach out and grab it and use it to endure and to heal.
But first, someone had to send it.
Yonder Mountain String Band did just that. And so when I think of Pastor Tim shaving his head, I think of it as the apogee of those moments. And the start of a very special tradition.
For every tradition, there is a watershed moment that catalyzes inertia into initiative. For most traditions, the moment isn’t finite and is not likely chronicled in the public domain. But thanks to Facebook, the unexpected finite moment that the Lilli Trippe Memorial Shave came into existence was captured on December 17th, 2009.
Looking back, it seems incredulous that a simple Facebook post about a haircut could engender such a meaningful thing, but there it is. Pastor Tim, a long-time-long-hair, decided to cut his spectacular mane and chimed in on social media to spur discussion. Instead, it spurred an awesome tradition In the end, Pastor Tim did more than shave his head, raise money for childhood cancer research, and donate hair…..he brought awareness to childhood cancer. And he brought endless amount of love and hope to Lilli. And he raised $8,500.
Lilli was thrilled at the idea of people shaving their heads for her. Even today, the times that I feel closest to her are those moments on mainstage, watching beautiful strands of hair drop into that magical Horning’s ether. Pastor Tim was there to start it, and I am so grateful that he is there every single year to keep it going.