None of us need to be told we live in a stunning natural environment, but sometimes, kicking through the foot-high slush in the early dusk on a Monday, the reality of that fact fades. Then one morning the sun is shining on the Chilkats with fresh snow on the trees, and the truth of where we live again strikes with full force.
Similarly, if you ask most Juneauites why they live here, many will cite, almost reflexively, the strength of the community — even if the extent of recent social interaction has been transactions with clerks at Blockbuster. We trust in it, even in the absence of daily proof. Then. once in while, we get the chance to revisit what the word really means.
Those in attendance at a fundraiser for Buddy Tabor — between 500 and 600 people, by the organizers’ count — got that chance earlier this month. Attendees struggled for words in trying to describe the outpouring of support and cooperation — Tabor among them.
“I was moved beyond words,” he said. “It was probably one of the highlights of my life.”
“It was one of the highlights of my life too,” echoed organizer Betsy Sims.
The circumstances for the event were grim, Tabor’s been diagnosed with stage four cancer, but the spirits in the room, as the snow swirled outside, were high.
“It was a joyous time,” Tabor said. “And that was just the way I would’ve wanted it. That’s what life is, you celebrate it.”
Sims said the event raised way more than expected for Tabor – funds that will be used to prolong his life through treatment – but above and beyond that remarkable sum, she was struck by how the event would not have worked if not for the specific efforts of all the individuals pulling together -- Collette Costa, Cheryl Cook, Kari Groven — way too many to name.
“The money was fantastic, I’m really glad that worked – but the room, that energy in that room, that’s what was so incredible,” said Sims.
Music, not surprisingly, was a major focus of the evening; Tabor’s been a highly influential and revered musician in Juneau for decades. Several different bands performed including the Cook County Blues Band and Honky Tonk Habit (as well as a short set by Tabor himself); those not on stage danced. Funds were raised through an admission fee and through proceeds from a live auction, food and drinks, all of which was provided at no cost to steer funds toward Tabor’s medical funds.
Tabor said the feeling of celebration is in keeping with his approach to the disease, which he has decided to fight.
“I thought, well, you shouldn’t spit into the face of life, you should respect it. and I do love it,” he said. “It becomes more beautiful the closer you get to death.”
Organizers said the event raised the question of why we often wait until someone is dead to talk about how much they meant to us. No one gets to attend their own wake, Sims said.
“(The fundraiser happened) on the heels of so many people who have died young, and completely unexpectedly, and no chance to have them be there to celebrate them,” she said. “There’s been so many people lately, it seems, so that was a gift.”
It also highlighted the rewards of genorosty of spirit; the huge turnout was a reflection of how many people Tabor has touched through his songs and friendship.
On his side, Tabor said he was grateful for the opportunity to reciprocate.
“When you’re dying slowly like this, you do get a chance to say goodbye. You get a chance to say thank you and I love you, so this is what this was,” he said. “I kept making jokes, I said, ‘I love a going-away party.’”
Sims said wishes she could personally thank each person who was there that night, doing their part to make the event such a success. No one who was there will ever forget it, she said.
“We live in a magical community,” she said. “We are blessed to have this.”
Collette Costa hopes to organize a concert featuring Tabor sometime before the end of the year. The event will likely include Tabor himself, performing with friends such as Sims and possibly Albert McDonnell, as well as other musicians performing Tabor’s songs. Those who want to find out more should contact Costa at email@example.com.