And We’re Back: Gratitude Emerges After Difficult Times 

Last July my life changed forever. I was teaching a drum kit lesson to one of my adult students and, as I was packing up to leave, I felt a sharp pain in my lower back. 

I don’t remember much after that. I remember briefly waking up on the floor, then again in the ambulance, then again in the hospital, then again two days later. 

I found out later that my splenic artery had ruptured. I also learned that, after a failed attempt to stop the bleeding with a non-invasive procedure, I needed emergency surgery to remove my spleen and part of my pancreas. After the operation I developed blood clots in my lungs as well as pneumonia and spent six days, unconscious, on a ventilator in the ICU. 

One in four people don’t survive what I went through. That has been interesting to think about. 

If the ambulance had been a few minutes later I wouldn’t have survived. That has also been interesting to think about. 

There was a lot of luck involved: the timing of the ambulance, the fact that if the rupture had happened five minutes later I would have been driving and the fact that there was someone there with me when it happened to call an ambulance (I wasn’t really able to speak let alone call 911). I’m still coming to terms with the dumb luck of it all. 

As someone who engages frequently in self-reflection, I find it interesting to notice how thankful I’ve become lately. I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful for my quick-thinking student that saved my life, I am thankful for the health professionals that took care of me and for wife and extended family that supported me through the whole ordeal. 

I am thankful for the small victories of my recovery: the first time I walked up and down the hospital hallway, the first time I went outside after the operation and the first time I had a shower (one of the best feelings I think I’ve ever had). 

I am thankful for friends and family that visited me and checked up on me. I’m thankful I was able to return to work teaching drum kit. And, I’m thankful that I’m back working with the drum corps in Dartmouth and District. 

As more time passes I am struck by the fact that my gratitude has not diminished in the least. Every morning I wake up I am grateful for the day ahead of me and appreciative of those behind me. 

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For the last two-plus years of the global pandemic, the pipe band community has itself been on life support. Pipe bands around the world have struggled with cancellation of parades and competitions, Zoom rehearsals, an outright ban on indoor piping and a complete lack of revenue. 

Let’s not forget the two best things about being in a pipe band: playing music together and socializing afterwards. What has been discouraged for the last two years? Playing music together and socializing afterwards! 

Online rehearsal have become the bane of every pipe majors’ and lead drummers’ existence. To this day I still have no idea if my drummers were playing with me during our Zoom practices! 

It’s been really hard to stay motivated through it all. It’s been hard to retain players. Only three snare drummers remain from our 2019 North American Championship drum corps. I was talking with another lead drummer the other day that lost their entire tenor section. Yet another band lost their lead drummer. Our grade 5 band also lost their lead drummer. Almost every pipe band has a similar story. 

So why then is there so much optimism this year when so many things have gone wrong? I think the answer is the same for the pipe band world as it was for me. 

Gratitude emerges after difficult times. 

Just to keep it real, my drum corps is not trying to win any prizes this year. Our goal is to get on the field and play the best we can. We are so thankful that we are even having a season! There is a relentlessly positive vibe in our rehearsals—we are grateful to be practicing in the same room! No one is getting upset but everyone is working hard and we are grateful to finally have a pipe band contest to motivate us! 

For the last two years I lost the ability to play in a pipe band. Now that our competition season is approaching I am not taking it for granted, and I think a lot of you will be doing the same. Best of luck to you all as you prepare to get back to it. 

We’re baaaaack….