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On Feb. 1, 1988, Garth Brooks and his songwriting pal Kent Blazy sat down to write a song based on an idea Garth pitched. The idea reminded Kent of a line his mother used to say, “Tell the people you love how you feel about them while they are still alive.”

As they started writing, Kent thought of his wife, Sharon. You can tell it’s a very personal lyric from the opening line, “Sometimes late at night, I lie awake and watch her sleeping.”

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That song turned out to be the No. 1 hit, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” and it has become one of Garth’s signature songs in a catalog filled with classic hits. It’s also the song that helped Garth get his record deal with Capitol Records Nashville. According “The Tennessean,” Garth got a call to come play one song at Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe, so he went with “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” That performance convinced a rep from Capitol who was in the audience to give Garth a deal, even though the label had turned him down several times before.

As Garth and Kent continued to write hit songs together, including “Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til the Sun Comes Up)” and “Somewhere Other Than the Night,” Kent became one of the songwriters featured during the Bluebird Cafe’s annual fundraiser shows for Nashville’s Alive Hospice, which take place throughout the month of January. The nonprofit organization offers end-of-life care and support for people throughout Middle Tennessee.

After several years of performing at the Bluebird for Alive Hospice, Kent found himself calling on their services for his wife, Sharon.

It all started when Sharon called to tell Kent she was feeling out of sorts. She’d been forgetting things as well, so Kent immediately headed back home to Nashville from Oklahoma, where he’d been writing with Garth.

Tests at the hospital showed a tumor growing on the outside of Sharon’s brain that would require a 12-hour surgery. She then went through a second surgery, and radiation, and then a third surgery, which left her paralyzed on the left side of her face. Sharon decided against any more surgeries after that.

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Five years after her battle with cancer began, Kent knew exactly who to call as he and Sharon neared the end of her journey. Alive Hospice came into their home to provide care for Sharon and allow Kent to walk their dogs or go to the grocery store.

He says, “I just saw the amazing people they are. I already knew it, but once you live it, it’s a totally different thing. It was such a gift to have them all there or make it so much easier because of what they provided.”

Sharon is gone now, but the song she inspired, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” lives on. Kent will sing it in her memory when he and Garth perform a show at the Bluebird Cafe on Feb. 1 — 30 years to the day from when they wrote it. Benefits from the sold-out writers round will benefit Alive Hospice.

This Garth Brooks hit has a brand-new meaning with this heartbreaking story Getty Images/Rick Diamond
Hunter Kelly is a senior correspondent for Rare Country. Follow him on Twitter @Hunterkelly.
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