Note: Over the past few weeks, a couple of events involving great moms have unfolded at Clint Holmes’ shows at The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. On Saturday, we published a story about guitarist John Wedemeyer and his late mother, Ardis. Today, it’s the story of how a family made a great night for a mom usually confined to hospice care.
When Clint Holmes started talking from the stage about an email he’d received earlier in the day, hardly anyone knew what he was talking about.
Anyone except the cluster of fans seated at a couple of tables near the back.
A ripple of emotion swept through that group as Holmes shaded his eyes from the spotlight and searched the Cabaret Jazz audience.
"I received an email today, a request for this song. … I can’t see if the person who sent it is out there," Holmes said, peering to the crowd. "But we’re going to sing it anyway."
One of the women rose and began sobbing, her body convulsing and her hands covering her mouth. Victoria Ficklin was crying — joyfully — for her mother.
"I think we found who you’re looking for, Clint!" a fan shouted as those in the area applauded. As Holmes and the band started performing the Bette Midler hit "Wind Beneath My Wings," the singer strode toward the commotion. A chair next to 86-year-old Gloria Bullard had been left unoccupied; Holmes sat and sang a portion of the song.
Everyone within eyeshot was welling with tears.
Gloria smiled as the tears trailed down her face. She was seated in a scooter and hooked to an oxygen tank, but no one would have been surprised if she were to stand and dance to the song.
Holmes, who was clearly taken off guard, waved as he returned to the stage. "Everyone was so emotional," he said later. "I wanted them to have their moment."
Getting Gloria to the show was no routine achievement.
Gloria moved to Las Vegas a few months ago so that her daughter Victoria could care for her. She suffers from congestive heart failure, among other life-threatening conditions, and has been in hospice care since January.
"She really loves going to shows, but she has not been out in a long time," Victoria said. "This might be the last time she’s able to do it, to be honest."
Victoria saw that Holmes planned a special birthday performance for May 3 and pinpointed that show as the one Gloria should see. She didn’t know if Holmes had ever performed "Wind Beneath My Wings." She'd never had contact with Holmes. In fact, she'd never seen him perform but found his email on his website and rolled the dice.
"We spent a week getting her ready for this show," Victoria said. "We wanted to see someone who was great, and someone we could see up close." They wanted a venue that was centralized, with a bus stop nearby because, yes, they all bused to The Smith Center.
"We were determined to be here," said Victoria, who was joined by relatives Corazon Ficklin (Gloria’s niece) and the woman known as "Great Mary" Fauntleroy. Great Mary and Gloria are cousins, and the 96-year-old Great Mary was in fine design in a silver sweater and black evening gown.
Gloria wore a multicolored dress and a black jacket and pulled a handmade afghan over her shoulder during the show. But her most beautiful accessory was the smile she wore during the entire performance.
Afterward, she was bouncing with energy.
"I am having the time of my life," she said. "I am so excited. But tomorrow, I’m gonna chill out."