A Dream Come True: Memories from a Country Music Festival Still Warm My Heart

Lorraine and Brian Kember

Ask anyone if there is something that they would like to do before they die, and inevitably they will come up with at least one thing that they have always wanted to experience but have never got around to doing.

Some people have a “bucket list” of yearnings, and the extremes could be as exotic as traveling to foreign lands or as simple as learning to cook Chinese food.

Time and money are not always the culprits for our procrastination when it comes to actively pursuing the experiences we crave for. More often, it is because we do not want to move out of our comfort zone.

Though most of us get bored doing the same things day in and day out, we find comfort in our known routines, and it can be a daunting prospect to put ourselves into a position where we feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.

Sadly, this often results in us not opening ourselves up to so many of life’s joys.

Taking on a new challenge does take a certain amount of energy, and it can also take a lot courage to move out of our comfort zone and try something different. Something, that challenges our brain and our body and teaches us something new.

It could be as simple as doing a course at the local college, joining a craft group, taking a Chinese cooking class, learning yoga or taking that holiday to a place you have dreamed of going to.

Unfortunately, many people do not think about their bucket list until they are facing the end of their life and it becomes obvious that there is limited time to do all of the things that they would like to do.

The same applies to when a loved one is facing the end of their life, and we are made painfully aware that there is limited time to do the things that you have always dreamed of doing together.

When Brian was diagnosed with mesothelioma and given three to nine months to live, I was determined that one of the things we had wished to do together would come true.

A Country Boy at Heart

Brian was a country boy at heart. He loved the easygoing lifestyle of the far north of Australia and the fishing and crabbing opportunities that came with it. He also loved having a few beers with his mates and listening to country and Western music.

Country and Western music was always being played in our house, and our children grew up with the familiar strains of Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Slim Dusty and a host of other country singers playing on our stereo. Though I had no favorite singer, Brian’s favorite of all time was Slim Dusty.

Over the years, Brian had often mentioned that he would love for us to take a trip to Tamworth during one of their music festivals. I had agreed that it would be a wonderful thing for us to do, but for some reason or another we never got around to doing it.

Making Our Wish Come True

 The city of Tamworth, located midway between Brisbane and Sydney on the east coast of Australia, is known as the “country music capital of Australia” and is renowned for the Country Music Festival it hosts in each year.  Held over a two-week period in late January, it is the second biggest country music festival in the world.

Fortunately for us, the Tamworth Country Music Festival was due to commence not long after Brian was diagnosed, and since he was well enough to travel, we decided that we would make the trip.

I immediately set about making travel plans for travel and accommodations, but soon learned that this was not going to be as easy as I had anticipated. Unbeknownst to us, people had booked their accommodations in Tamworth a year in advance of the festival, and all of the hotels, motels and caravan parks were already booked out.

We believed it may not be possible for us to go, until a travel agent gave us the contact details of a lady who took in private boarders during festival time.

Once we had made contact with her and had secured our accommodations, things started to come together. Excited about our trip, I began searching for information on the Internet about the festival and which well-known singers were going to be performing.

I could not believe my eyes when I read that a Slim Dusty was putting on a concert, and decided to book two tickets in advance without telling Brian. Knowing how much he loved Slim Dusty, I wanted this to be a special surprise.

Tamworth was amazing. Everywhere we turned, there was a band playing or a singer strumming a guitar, and the whole mood of the place was one of excitement. There was so much to do and so many wonderful entertainers to listen to. We wandered up and down the streets in our cowboy hats, just taking it all in and enjoying this special time together. 

And then came the time for Brian’s surprise. I had held off telling him about Slim Dusty until the day of the concert, and I was bursting as I waited to see his response.

Brian’s joy at meeting Slim Dusty in person, and hearing him sing all of the songs that he knew so well, was all that I had hoped it would be. I watched Brian’s face as much as I watched Slim Dusty perform, and I couldn’t get enough of his smile. We went up to Slim Dusty after the concert and shook his hand. I think it was one of the most exciting times in Brian’s life.

Memories of our time in Tamworth still warm my heart, and I am so glad that we managed to fulfill at least one of our dreams before Brian passed away.

Living for the Moment

Brian’s illness and death have forever changed the way I look at life. I have found out the hard way how quickly the gift of life can be taken from us, and now, to the best of my ability, I do the things that I have my heart set on, as soon as I possibly can, rather than putting them aside for a rainy day. 

Rainy days don’t always come.

Life is so precious and so full of opportunities to love, to learn and to grow, and I am determined to grab everything that life offers me with both hands.

What is on your bucket list? What is keeping you from doing it? Share your thoughts on Facebook.


Lorraine Kember is the author of "Lean on Me," an inspirational personal account of her husband's courageous battle with mesothelioma. She is an accomplished public speaker in Australia and is passionate about sharing her journey with cancer. Her website can be found at www.lean-on-me.net

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