SALT LAKE CITY — As the old song goes, "it’s a small world after all" — but it was another song entirely that made two Utahns realize just how small the world really can be.
Randin Graves and Cammi Meitler were both looking for a band partner the day they met on Craiglist over two years ago, and formed their own band, called Sidecar Judy. They soon realized, however, they had more in common than they’d ever expected.
“(Cammi) was at BYU-I and felt a calling to quit school and move to Salt Lake City to pursue music,” Graves said. “We met within a week of her moving here and started recording our first album the day we met. So it was very much like, ‘click, click, click.’”
Graves had also recently moved to Salt Lake City with his family when his wife was diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia, called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The move brought them closer to his wife’s family as well as LDS Hospital, which Graves said has “one of the best blood cancer units around.”
Shortly into their partnership, Graves learned Meitler’s sister had the same rare type of leukemia as his wife and that his and Meiler's paths had crossed while both family members were in treatment.
“It was a slow process of putting the pieces together over several months, but when we found out Audrey (Cammi’s sister) had been pregnant when she was diagnosed, we said, ‘Wait, we knew about that!’” Graves said. “Everyone in the ward was talking about this young woman that was recently married and pregnant and had just been diagnosed. My wife said, ‘I met their mother on an elevator while I was bald and wearing a mask!’”
Because Audrey's diagnosis came while she was pregnant, she was limited in the amount of treatment she could receive at the time. Doctors waited until she had given birth before commencing radiation. Unfortunately, though Graves' wife has since been declared cancer-free, Audrey had many complications and eventually died during the summer of 2016.
To deal with the loss of her sister, Meitler began writing song after song, working to find the words to convey her feelings. Eventually, she settled on a final version called, “Better.”
“When (Audrey died), I couldn’t really think about anything else, so I was writing a lot of songs about that,” Meitler said. “But I really liked (‘Better’) because it wasn’t as depressing. … In the song it says ‘I need to let go,’ because I feel a lot of people just hold on to the sadness of losing a loved one, and I don’t think my sister would want me to feel sad.”
Meitler brought the song to Graves, and they worked to create a fleshed-out recording of the piece. They also produced a music video dedicated to Audrey, with family pictures from her life, her wedding day and her time in the hospital.
Like most of their music, Graves and Meitler uploaded the song to BandCamp, where listeners were able to buy their music in the past. This time, however, Graves knew he wanted the song to influence more than just the listener.
“As we were finishing up the song, we were talking about putting it up for sales for charity,” Graves said. “I looked up the local Man & Woman of the Year contest that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society does, and it turns out that one of the physician’s assistants, Shar Christopher, had helped both my wife and Audrey and was one of the candidates this year.”
Each year, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society chooses several people from the community to compete to raise the most money for the organization by May 12, and the winner becomes the Man or Woman of the Year. Upon recognizing Christopher, Graves messaged her, explaining the situation and asking her if she remembered Meitler’s sister.
“She messaged me back instantly and she started crying and said, ‘Oh I loved Audrey,’ and she sent back a picture of a triathlon that she had participated in in Audrey’s name. … so only afterwards we find out how much she was loved by the people there at the hospital,” Graves said.
After making the connection, Graves and Meitler decided to donate all the proceeds from the song “Better” to Christopher’s campaign, which will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The site where the song is sold, Bandcamp, takes a cut of the proceeds, but the rest will go toward the campaign.
Meitler and Graves hope the song will help not only those who will benefit from the donations, but those who may be suffering through the same thing.
“I feel a lot of people just hold on to that (pain),” Meitler said. “So I put that in the song hoping it would help others.”