Praisery

An Open Letter to Josh Groban

By ryankahn in Praisery

Dear Josh,

I am writing to tell you about one of your fans. No offense, it’s not me—I’m more of a rock-and-roll guy, myself. The fan whom I’m writing about is my mom. Her name was Jennifer, and if she were writing this letter, she would describe herself as your biggest fan.

How big of a fan was she?

She was the kind of fan who talked about you like she actually knew you—like you were her favorite nephew, or the kid next door who mowed her lawn. She wore T-shirts with your face on them. She owned multiple copies of your CDs. (I have no idea why.) And, she obsessively recorded even your most obscure TV appearances, regardless of channel or time of day.

She was such a big fan, Josh, that in 2007, my 65-year-old mother bought two scalped, front-row tickets to your concert in San Diego, more than 1,000 miles away from her home in Portland, Oregon. Then she and my older sister drove all that way to see you. At the time, my mom was practically housebound, and the San Diego trip was her only real vacation in years. You were the reason for that vacation, Josh. You were the reason for her to find someone to take care of her dog and collect her mail, the reason for her to get the hell out of the house.

She was that big of a fan.

* * *

Josh, about a year after the concert, my sister died unexpectedly from an illness at the age of 38. My mom was a wreck. People say that the death of one’s child is unique in its ability to cause devastation, and that was certainly true for my mom.

In the wake of my sister’s death, she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was rudderless when it came to making decisions, particularly with respect to my sister’s funeral. The only thing that my mom knew for certain was that two of your songs, “You Raise Me Up” and “To Where You Are,” had to be played. And on that day, when those songs filled the church, my mom’s dazed shock was replaced by grief. I could see, Josh, that your music—your voice—helped her come to terms with that grief, and begin to accept it.

In the weeks after the funeral, a few of my mom’s friends worked to get her into a routine. With their help, she eventually regained some sense of normalcy. A couple of years passed. And then, she too got sick.

At first, her illness appeared to be the type of treatable pneumonia that she had experienced several times before. It seemed normal to me. Illness was, on some level, my mom’s way of being in the world. As a result of her many previous hospitalizations, I had learned to stay calm. I had learned that she was resilient, and that she would recover. But this time, Josh, she was not recovering.

Fairly quickly, the doctors put my mom on a respirator, which required that she be placed in a drug-induced coma. I visited her in the ICU, playing the part of dutiful son, but I mostly just sat silently in her room.

One of the nurses told me that sometimes people in my mom’s condition can hear others around them, and she encouraged me to talk to her. I forced myself to do it, but it felt awkward. The distance between my mom and me was greater than the distance between the sleeping and waking worlds. It was the distance between a son who had physically and emotionally fled the nest years ago, and a mother who still lived there. My mom and I had grown apart, and that distance made my voice sound hollow and vacant in the hospital room.

This, Josh, is where you came in.

* * *

One day, while preparing for another awkward visit to the hospital, I stopped at my mom’s house to check her voicemail. An excited clerk from her favorite CD store had left her a message to remind her that your latest album had been released that day, and that he had saved her a copy. Suddenly, I knew what to do.

I grabbed a portable stereo from my sister’s old room, and a few of your CDs from my mom’s collection. Then I rushed to the hospital, stopping along the way to buy your new album. As soon as I pressed “Play,” I exhaled, relieved to have found something to fill the silence of her room.

But even though the music may have alleviated the need for my stilted, one-sided conversations, it was not a miracle cure. Over the following days, my mom got worse; and eventually, the doctors said that she was not going to come back. On hearing the news, one of my mom’s oldest friends brought a quilt from my childhood home, and we replaced the starched hospital sheets. We gathered pictures of my grandfather, my grandmother, and my sister, and we placed them around the room. And we continued to play your music, Josh. Beyond that, we had nothing left to do but sit and wait.

As evening approached, my mom’s friend and I decided to sit with my mom in shifts so that one of us could get some rest. I decided to take the first shift. I sat alone in a chair at the foot of my mom’s bed, and reality set in. She was going to die. Her time was running out. And if that nurse was right, if my mom could hear my voice, then I needed to talk to her. I could no longer just point a stereo in her direction and pretend that it was enough. But at the same time, I had no idea what to say. It was then, Josh, that your song “February Song” came on. And it was then—during the aching, beautiful chorus of that song—that I broke down.

To me, “February Song” is about the distance that works its way into a relationship when people grow up, grow old, or change. It is about the regret that comes with recognizing that distance, and from facing the fact that we have allowed ourselves to drift away. But “February Song” is also about the thread that continues to connect us despite the distance. It is a thread that pulls on us, and makes us want to promise that, one day, we’ll come back again.

Hearing that message, and hearing it from a voice that my mom loved absolutely, brought me comfort. It eased some of the guilt that I’d carried around for years, and made me feel normal. Most importantly, it made me feel more connected to my mom than I had in a long time.

Eventually, I got up from my chair, walked to my mom’s side, and talked to her. I don’t remember much of what I said, but it doesn’t matter. If my mom could hear me, she would have heard me reaching out and trying. At that point, she would have ignored the distance between us. She would have ignored my talk of “sorrys” and “goodbyes,” and she would have tried to tell me—as she did when I was little—that everything was going to be alright.

And then, Josh, my mom would have wanted to change the subject. She would have wanted to talk about the music playing in her hospital room. Your music, Josh. “Listen, Ryan” she would have said to me, almost giddy in the moment that we were sharing. “Listen to it. Just listen to his voice.”

Sincerely,

Ryan Kahn, son of your biggest fan

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About

Ryan Kahn was raised in the 1970s and '80s in Portland, Oregon. He works as a lawyer in his hometown. He has very few hobbies, as he spends most of his free time sitting on the floor, making toy trucks “talk each other,” at the persuasive insistence of his two-year-old son.

21 Responses to “An Open Letter to Josh Groban”

  1. Marie Reply August 6, 2012

     
    What a beautiful letter.  This letter illustrates what Josh's fans already know, the impact of his music on people.  February Song has always been a favorite to me.  The lyrics are universal. 
    I'm so sorry for the loss of your mother and sister in so short of time.  Life is so short.  We certainly have to make the most of the time we have.  Loved your bio. :D   I hope that you have a great time being a father to your son as he grows up. 
     

  2. DJ Nicoletti Reply August 6, 2012

    Just beautiful…

  3. Emma Doran Reply August 6, 2012

    Wow, as long as You live she to will live on through you, don’t think u could of put those words any better than what u did I cryed,somuch love understanding and connection between a bound of mother & son that not even death can break, forever remember her words she spoke, I can understand your moms love for Josh groban I personally think he amazing man in all ways than one .. any way I blab tomuch and. Write that well. You take care you coz everything will be alright!!
    Emma Doran (@lightofblue)

  4. Emma Doran Reply August 6, 2012

    I ment I don’t write that well

  5. Jackie Reply August 6, 2012

    What a beautiful letter. You found out why your Mom loved Josh's music so much. He has that same effect on most of us. Now, when you hear him sing, you will remember your mother with love and caring.

  6. Sue Dreyfuss Reply August 6, 2012

    Thank you for sharing your beautifully intimate story. I totally understand your Mom's love of Josh's voice. I believe his voice's beauty is the sound that perfectly represents the whole person of Josh Groban. I have lost my mother as well and I think your letter to him is as appreciated by him as it is healing for you. To the rest of us Grobanites, your letter touches our hearts and gives us another 'Grobie' to love. We're Grobie Sistahs. I'm sure your Mom heard Josh's voice and more importantly, she heard yours. It'll be all right. :)

  7. Sharon Reply August 6, 2012

    Excellent balance. Personal comments will follow.

  8. Loretta Reply August 8, 2012

    I am so glad I took the time to read your letter to Josh.  What a beautiful, moving tribute.
     May you find peace and comfort. 

  9. Ryan Reply August 9, 2012

    I really appreciate all of the feedback that I've received on this letter.  It is truly humbling.  Thank you all so much.

  10. DJ Nicoletti Reply August 9, 2012

    Ryan… we thank you for your heartfelt expression of love for your Mom and her love of Josh Groban.
    His music which has brought joy to so many of us.  Changing us in ways we cannot measure.
    This is actually the most beautiful thing a son could do for a Mom… it doesn't matter if you think it is too late, or unheard by your Mom, she sees this, trust in that and she is smiling with tears of joy and pride over her beautiful son, you Ryan.
    DJ Nicoletti

    • Ryan Reply August 10, 2012

      DJ, 
      Thanks for the heartfelt feedback.  I'm in the process of trying to see if I could get Josh to read the letter (my mom would absolutely freak out), and I noticed that you have quite a bunch of followers on your Twitter account.  If you're comfortable doing it, I would love it if you would tweet the article! 
      Thanks again,  Ryan

  11. DJ Nicoletti Reply August 10, 2012

    Done!
    dj4jg moments ago
    Ryan hopes you will see this @joshgroban http://t.co/m1MSGILi http://t.co/LEUoAaSb
     

  12. DJ Nicoletti Reply August 10, 2012

    Ryan:
    Marie @MAF11 Retweeted my tweet to @joshgroban she has 987 followers give or take a few… LOL
    maf11about 9 minutes ago
    RT @DJ4JG: Ryan hopes you will see this @joshgroban http://t.co/m1MSGILi http://t.co/LEUoAaSb
    We really are hoping that your beautiful letter is read and Josh tweets that he did. #fingerscrossed
    I know if he does… a beautiful rainbow will be seen far and wide because your beloved Mom is dancing!
    DJ Nicoletti
     

  13. Kate Reply August 13, 2012

    Ryan, Your letter is beautiful.  I truly believe your mother could hear you and was so thankful that you brought Josh's music into her room.  I wish to extend my deepest sympathy for the loss of your sister and mother.  I firmly believe Josh and his music were part of your mother's life for a reason.   Josh will read your letter someday and be truly humbled and honored.  It's just a matter of time. 
     

  14. Rick Kahn Reply August 22, 2012

    Son, That is a beautiful letter and it took lot's of courage for you to write it. You are incredible!!! Dad

  15. DJ Nicoletti Reply August 23, 2012

    Yes, Rick Kahn, your son is quite remarkable… he made a lot of grown women cry with his heartfelt letter.  I am sure your wife/his beautiful mother, is smiling and dancing to Josh Groban's music… Blessings
    DJ Nicoletti

  16. sarah Reply August 14, 2013

    I know exactly how he must have felt. I lost my Nanna 6 years ago. It was hearbreaking to watch as she slipped away. I don't remember my last words to her. Most of the time when my family and I went to the nursing home, I sat in the lobby outside her room. ( I am crying as I write this ) It was just too painful to see her lie there in pain and hardly remember us. The last conversation I remember having with Nanna was when I came in and stood at the foot of her bed and she asken my mom, "Who's that?" It was too much to bear. When my mom told her who I was her face lit up with rememberance and we talked about things in the past that we love to do. She used to draw me pictures of my faverated disney characters. I'm still trying to find the one she drew on a knapkin of Ariel. 

    When it was time to leave, I hugged her gently and told her I would see her when we came back. We did go back to visit, but I don't remember any of it. I must have blocked it out. I wish I could remember more of the time we shared. 

    About a year later, there came a night when I couldn't sleep a wink. I had known there was something wrong. My mom came into my room and told me that Nanna had gone to be with God. She told me that when she was with her that whole week before that Nanna had seen Grand daddy, her husband, and her mother, both of whom are in heaving with God. She also told me of a time when she saw a man in a chair in the corner of her room. Nanna said that she didn't like him and my mom prayed and asked for the man to go away. at that very moment, Nanna said, "Where did he go?" I know that she is in heaven but it still hurt to know that she was gone from this world.

    It was years later that I heard Josh Groban sing "To Where You Are". I broke down in tears again. That song remided me that I would see Nanna again and we would share many more beautiful moments together in heaven and see God face to face soon.

    I have been a fan of Josh Groban for years and have most of his albums and am going to one of his concerts in November, but it is this song that when played, I remember my Nanna and know that we will be together again.

    Ryan's story remind me so much of my own. I would like to offer this small bit of comfort, verses from the Bible:

    John 14:1-4 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so,I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and recieve you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

    I hope that this will bring comfort to you, Ryan. I know what it is like to lose someone close to your heart. God knows even more that I do the pain and sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one. He knows and wants to comfort you.

    Your friend in Christ,

    Sarah

  17. Lori Reply April 3, 2014

    Ryan,  I'm so glad you found a way to re-connect with your mom.  I truly believe it was a comfort for her to have Josh's music in the room and of course you by her side.  As a Josh fan myself, I can tell you his music means the world to me and if someday I am lying very ill in a hospital bed, I hope someone that knows me well knows I would want to hear the comfort of Josh's music.  Take peace in knowing that your mom left this world knowing how much her son loves her.

  18. Jennifer MacLeod Reply April 3, 2014

    Ryan,
    In reading your letter about your mom and about how much of a big Josh Groban fan she was, it had tears coming from my eyes. I’m sorry to hear of the loss of both your sister and your mom in such a short time of each other. However, it is never easy to lose a parent or a sibling so young. I may not have lost a parent, but lost a person whom was like an older brother to me, and I do have to admit that not only ‘To Where You Are’ and ‘February Song’ helped me to deal with the pain and heartbreak of that loss. I have been a long time Josh Groban fan, since his appearance on the Closing Ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.
    I agree that Josh’s music has helped many people through some hard times, including loss of a parent, Grandparent, sibling or best friend. Or it’s helped them through some times of painful moments in their lives such as a break-up, being hurt or teased by bullies, and other similar times. His gift of incredible songwriting and singing and piano playing sure have brought together many people whether young or old, male and female. His kindheartedness and giving nature makes him so much more loved as well as for his support for keeping arts in schools.

    Please pardon my rambling, for only a few truly talented musicians/recording artists can bring that out of me. Especially in an industry that seems to want to bring out those who don’t really have that much talent and require synthetic beats and vocals to enhance their lack of true talent. However, I’m glad you have found Josh Groban’s music helpful in your moments with your mom. February Song is one of my absolute favorites. Your description of it is very well phrased and written. I hear it in the same way you described it. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers and will send warm hugs your way through those thoughts and prayers in the days ahead.
    Since DJ offered to tweet the link for this letter, I hope that Josh does get a chance to read this and hopefully leave a comment on here for you.

    Hugs and love from a sister in Christ,
    Jennifer MacLeod
    @JenMacAtlGA82

  19. Josie Staley Reply April 3, 2014

    Ryan,

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life with us. I know your Mom would be so pleased that you actually took the time to listen and experience that which a lot of us have become accustomed to but never take for granted.  I am sure you will never forget the voice with which Josh delivers his message or the feeling you had when you realized how the lyrics could actually apply in your life.  This, Ryan, could be an Ah Ha moment.  Thanks again for sharing.   

    Josie Staley

  20. Denise Weber Reply April 3, 2014

    Dear Ryan! My heartfelt sympathy for your loss… Thanks for sharing your story with us. We   "Grobanites" know and experience the impact of Josh's voice and music every day.

    I am happy for you that you feel you had the chance to connect with your Mom again before you had to let her go. As I experienced kind of similar moments 10 years ago with my dad's passing I think I can really empathize with you on that….  those moments are most important to deal with the loss and the memory.

    Hope the voice and music of Josh will always be helpful for you to remember your Mom.

    Kindest regards, Denise

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