It may have been sold out, but table 23 deliberately sat empty last Saturday night at the Crystal Palace for this year’s Media Music Jam.
I give credit to my friend Jerry Hufford who first named table 23 as “Susie’s” table. It was where my wife sat at our first Media Music Jam at the Crystal Palace. It would be Susie’s first and only time attending the benefit concert. She was beautiful and courageous in her two-year battle to beat cancer. My children eventually lost their mother, my grandchildren lost their grandmother and I lost my bride of 40 years to Leiomyosarcoma cancer, an almost unpronounceable, ugly name until you are diagnosed with it.
I remember standing on the stage that first year of the Media Music Jam with Thee Majestics and many media personalities who performed that night. During the concert, I would periodically look over at table 23 to see how Susie was holding up. She was already in chemo treatment and my adult children and I were concerned the energy of the concert might be a overwhelming for Susie.
You never would have known chemotherapy was a daily activity for Susie. Each time I looked over, she was getting and giving hugs, sitting and chatting with her friends and family and always with a gorgeous beautiful smile. Whenever I caught her eye, we blew kisses to each other. Leiomyosarcoma was forgotten for that evening. Susie was truly happy that Media Music Jam night.
This was the fifth year my family produced the concert at the Crystal Palace. It was held last Saturday night. Because I am filing this column before the show, I don’t know how much money was raised to help local families on their cancer journey, but over the past four years, the Media Music Jam has generated almost $200,000. All proceeds go to the Kern County Cancer Fund, which financially assists with related medical treatment for eligible local cancer patients.
What I do know is it took my family one year to plan, produce and coordinate this year’s Media Music Jam. It’s important for me to let you know how important and critical my children and family are to producing this event. Although we're not professional event coordinators, my family uses all the organizational skills passed down from their mother.
Susie was the “Wavehog” matriarch for all our summer beach camping trips. “Wavehogs” is a term of endearment for our 80-plus family members and friends who go camping together every year.
We may not be oncologists, radiation therapists or nurses but the Wavehogs know how to throw, as my kids would say, a respectable “fat” party to help raise money for Kern County patients with cancer related medical expense.
This year’s Media Music Jam was sold out. Table 23 is now used for my family and friends, who are the volunteer crew the day of the concert. They use table 23 as their quick resting place between selling 50/50 raffle tickets, making sure all guests know about the raffle items and supporting each other as we blaze through the concert.
All the guitars and amplifiers from this year’s Media Music Jam have by now been put away. Tables have been cleared. Raffle items claimed. Everyone has gone home. Concert goers will call me and tell me how great the show was or how well a media performer did. Sometimes they will unabashedly ask why I asked a certain performer to sing.
I remind them that the Media Music Jam is not "Kern’s Got Talent." It's "Kern’s Got Heart." All performers forgo their egos and without a safety net perform in front of a sold out Crystal Palace audience. They do this to help people they don’t know and will probably never meet. Kern’s got heart. Cancer is a stranger to none of the performers.
I know it’s crazy to some, but yes, at the start of the concert every year, I look over at table 23. I can still see Susie in her purple Media Music Jam t-shirt, her radiant smile and beautiful curly dark hair.
So, I throw her a kiss and she throws one back to me. It brings me good luck.
Table 23 is never really empty. I know Susie is there.
Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at email@example.com. His work normally appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.