Labor Day weekend a year ago Debbie, my wife, and I were at Vanderbilt University Medical Center with Cindy Reavis who learned that her breast cancer had returned.
Debbie and Cindy went through breast cancer at the roughly the same time in 2004. We were concerned that Cindy would not leave the hospital.
But Cindy is a fighter, and with the help of some aggressive chemotherapy, Cindy has had a good year. Now, it was time to celebrate the year by going to the Season 12 American Idol concert in Nashville.
I was a little envious of Cindy and Debbie going to the concert without me, but I know that they share a bond forged in surviving breast cancer. It was a time for them to celebrate together.
Cindy, Debbie and Randy Vanatta had an 11-year ritual revolving around American Idol. They would meet at Randy’s home each week to watch the television season and then go to the concert when it would come to Nashville.
Cindy and Randy were romantic in the past, but now they were good friends. The three of them were the kind of friends that last a lifetime. Randy’s life ended in a car wreck five months ago. We knew Cindy was battling cancer, but none of us was prepared to lose Randy.
Randy’s favorite from American Idol Season 11 was Janelle Authur whom he nicknamed “Oliver Springs,” Janelle’s birthplace. He was looking forward to seeing her in live in concert.
Just before the concert, Debbie sent me a text that her second row tickets turned out to be center stage. They thought that Randy had been looking out for them.
A little later, Debbie sent me a text that “a God thing” had happened, and she had met Janelle’s mother. While waiting in line, Debbie noticed a woman wearing a Janelle T-shirt. Debbie had a conversation with the woman who turned out to be Janelle’s mother, Judy.
As Debbie started to explain how Janelle was Randy’s favorite and how Cindy was battling cancer, Judy responded that she already knew who they were. She had saved my column about Randy and gave Debbie backstage passes to meet the stars.
It took about half an hour before the stars could change clothes and join the people with backstage passes. They took them into a private room with the stars and about 50 other people.
Each star took time to meet them. The stars were all friendly, humble and gracious. They signed autographs and took pictures with their guests.
Today I read about Janelle Authur in “Our Home – Wilson County.” Randy grew up in Mahone, which is outside of Alexandra. Janelle had a similar farm home in Oliver Springs. Both had shared a love of the kind of music that originates in the country.
As I read the article, Janelle talked about touring Mt. Juliet and knowing that it would be her home. She said it was “a God thing.” This was the second time I had heard this exact phrase.
I am sure that there are those that would say that it was all coincidence, but I prefer to believe that it was Randy Vanatta looking after his two lifelong friends. I think it was a God thing and that some friendships extend beyond a lifetime.
Cindy is teaching third grade at West Elementary this year while she continues to battle her cancer. A year ago there were a number of fundraisers to help with the medical expenses. If you would like to make a contribution, there is a “For the Benefit of Cindy Reavis” account at Wilson Bank and Trust.
Jack Leftwich is Lebanon native and contributing columnist for The Lebanon Democrat. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.