This is not a year-end retrospective, like I wrote the past two times New Year's Eve came around, in 2015 and 2016. If you want a quick synopsis of my whole story, read those two posts. But this year, I'm taking stock. I want to talk about the things I did this year that I'm happiest about. The decisions I'm glad I made, and the things I'm most glad I did. Lord knows I'm not shy about bragging on myself, but that's not the intent of this post. When I talk about the best things I did this year, I'm not touting my achievements. I'm counting my blessings.
These are not in chronological order, or in order of importance. It's not a Top Ten List. They're all the best. It's yet another embarrassment of riches. I have led a charmed life, even as I approach death.
The best thing I did this year was finish a career well. While I wanted to stop recording for a living much sooner than I did, I was happy to be able to finish three album projects and complete the twentieth volume of a CD series I've been writing and producing since the 1990's. I ended my song parody service for radio as well. Since then, I've been able to focus on the things I'm passionate about now.
It's such a blessing to be able to finish well. In all ways, not just professionally. Many people never get that opportunity. I'm very grateful for it.
The best thing I did this year was get monthly Xgeva shots for my bones. I experienced no side effects from it at all, and I believe it's a big reason I'm still walking around right now, even with a spine full of cancer. It was a decision I agonized over publicly, but I'm glad I made that decision now.
And speaking of cancer treatment, which I ended this past September, the best thing I did this year was form relationships with my medical team. It's why I found it impossible to leave them, even in hospice care. I go back for my next appointment on January 9th, and I can't wait.
The best thing I did this year was help two friends find love. With each other. 'Nuff said.
The best thing I did this year was visit my family last February. At the time, it seemed to all of us that we'd get another chance. But toward the end of this year, my dad had a health problem that prevented him from having visitors, and by the time he recovered, I could not travel. So I am thankful that we got that visit in when we did.
The best thing Sharon and I did this year was celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We threw a huge party, and friends came from near and far. Three bands played, and I was in all of them. There was an undertone of sadness to this event due to my circumstances, but we felt loved. I am more blessed than anyone I know to have been married to this incredible woman for forty years.
And speaking of Sharon, the best thing we did this year was spend a lot of time together and do a lot of fun things. We took four fun trips together in 2017. Three flights and one road trip. We visited close friends, took our last tropical vacation together, and went to Morsefest. More on that later. But we also stayed home a lot. We hung out at our favorite spot by a nearby reservoir several times this past summer. We went to neighborhood summer concerts. We spent time on our patio. We ate out a lot. We went to church.
It seems like I'm always running off somewhere; to a rehearsal, a gig, an appointment, or to meet someone I want face time with. Each time I do that, it costs Sharon time with me. I am keenly aware of that. That's especially true during rehearsal season for a show with the kids. But more and more, I'm asking people I want to see, and those who want to see me to come to our home, so I don't have to leave her so much. That trend will continue.
The best thing we did this year was find Greenwood Community Church, about ten minutes from our home. We love it there. We love the pastors, the worship team, and the whole feel of the place. I wish we'd found it sooner. Now, it's too late to assimilate the way we normally would in a church. At my stage of life, we can't get involved like we used to. We just need a place close to home that feels right to us, and Greenwood does.
The best thing I did this year was finish my book, Bearing Witness. So far. It's up to date, and now I'm just adding as I go. I plan to keep adding right up to the end, or as close as I can get. I'm close to printing manuscripts and I've already asked a few people to proofread it. I may ask you soon.
The best thing I did this year was continue to mentor young musicians. From The Littleton Conservatory Of Rock to the band Wik to my protege, Payton Roybal. Payton is the lead singer of Wik, and we've just launched our Facebook page. Check it out and give us a like!
I can't describe the feeling I get from working with them. Being with them turns a horrible day into a great day. I've made made new friends and gained chosen family. It gives me a sense of purpose, and keeps me involved in music, my first love. I love every part of it, including listening to the set list for the next show in my car over and over for weeks on end. It gives me goal dates to shoot for. Because of this, I have two gigs in the next five weeks! It's one of the things that God and medication are keeping me upright for, and it means the world to me.
The best thing I did this year was give away many of my worldly possessions. Sharon and I continue our campaign to give away our things to the people we love, because people are much more important than things. Large items and small go out our door regularly to those who can use them. As I said in my last post, if we are close, dibs are accepted.
Notably, I gave my sound system and my keyboard to my protege, because singers in bands need those things, and I have no more use for them. But more than that, I gave her my support, and my confidence, and my time. Time is my most precious gift, but I'm not giving it as a favor. I'm giving it, and everything else I'm giving to her and everyone else I love because it's more blessed to give than to receive. And I want all the blessing I can get.
Finally, the best thing I did this year was join the Neal Morse Forum on Facebook. I actually joined that group one year ago today, New Year's Eve, 2016. Close enough. This is the best group of people I have found anywhere. They've been incredible supporters for Sharon and me. They decided we should be at Morsefest this year, and raised more than enough money to send us there in three hours. That led to VIP treatment at Morsefest beyond anything we had ever experienced. As a result, now I have personal relationships with most of the guys in the band. Now I have memories that will sustain me for the rest of my days. Now I have a whole new family. A #progfamily. That's the best part.
And the Neal Morse community is the gift that keeps on giving. We keep receiving gifts from Neal and his people. The picture above was taken at Morsefest by Neal's official photographer, Joel Barrios. That's one of about twenty pictures he took of me crying at that moment. I guess that was the best one! I don't even want to see the worst. Joel, as well as Scott Henry and Thad Kesten, Neal's videographers, have been very kind to me. They have given me things I'm pretty sure no one else has. In the world.
Scott and Thad are the ones who asked me to be interviewed for the Morsefest DVD. At the time, I expressed regret that I'd never see the interview because it takes so long for them to come out. But they made sure I did see it, and much more. Name another rock festival where that would happen.
Every week, someone from the Neal Morse community, whether someone from Neal's camp, or his fans, or Neal himself reaches out to me in some way. I can feel the love from these people, from all around the world. It's a precious thing. A year ago, I knew very few of them. Now they're family, and one I know will also be there for Sharon when the time comes.
After the Littleton Conservatory Of Rock show on February 3rd, my next goal date is March 17th. The night of Neal's solo acoustic show here in Denver. I can't wait to see him.
Some of you are probably thinking, "Hey Mark, what about God? You always end these things with some sort of God paragraph, so get to it." But that's not something I did. Not at all. I'll confess something to you. I do very little of what people would call praying. Instead, I have a running conversation with God, mostly not in words, every waking moment. I can feel his presence all the time in a powerful way. I don't have to do anything, or say anything, or go anywhere. It's not the best thing I did this year. I didn't do it at all. It's something he did for me more than two years ago, and he's still doing it. This is why the emotions are so close to the surface. Because he is so real, it's overwhelming.
I don't know how much of 2018 I'll be here for. My due date is approaching fast. I feel like it will come sometime this spring. But as I look back on 2017, I realize that many of you have been here with me for all of it, some for much longer. The support I receive from the readers of this blog helps to keep me going. If you make a list like this, I hope reading this blog is one of your bests. Because writing it is the best thing I did this year. #waroncancer #bearingwitness