Persons, places and things: A musical gift from Patrick

Barb Dickinson, seated, and Deb Dickinson.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Patrick Dickinson’s mom and one of his sisters arrived in my office with a box of the developmentally disabled man’s treasured music CDs. Patrick died the day after Christmas last year, one day before his 61st birthday.

His mom, Barb Dickinson, and sister, Deb Dickinson, wanted to share his wide-ranging music collection with someone who would enjoy it.

After reading an article in The Catholic Messenger this past fall, they knew who to share his music with: the core members of Arch 1, where adults with and without developmental disabilities share life in community as members of The Arch, L’Arche in Clinton.

The article told of how core member Mary Pat Buckman enjoyed listening to her favorite Beatles songs on a CD player. But the compact disc she played was scratched, so the music jumped and faded out.


“When we saw that article, Deb said, ‘Oh Mom, look, here’s a place for his CDs,’” Barb said. “Pat would have been glad that someone would enjoy what he had. I can’t think of a better place for his music to go.”

Barb, Deb and Patrick lived together in a cozy duplex in Davenport. Mother and daughter shared with me their fondest memories of Patrick, who had been the oldest of five children born to Barb and the late Lester Dickinson. Patrick lived with physical as well as developmental challenges. While he was able to feed himself, he needed help with dressing, bathing and other life skills. “He wasn’t verbal, but he was vocal,” Deb said. “He shaped all of us. I know that without a doubt we’re all more compassionate and patient.”

Patrick loved Christmas, Barb and Deb told me. He had been hospitalized nine days before Christmas last year, but his family celebrated early to accommodate a visiting niece’s schedule. Patrick witnessed the loving glow of that celebration, his final one this side of heaven. His mother and sister talked about what Christmas might be like this year without Patrick; I promised to deliver his music to Mary Pat and her housemates.

On Dec. 15, I arrived at Arch 1 with a large, colorful shopping bag containing, among other things, the box of music CDs. As we gathered in the dining room, core members Bob Wessels and Keith Behne were especially curious to know what was inside the bag. But they waited as patiently as possible for Mary Pat to finish cleaning her lunch bucket in the kitchen so that she could see what was inside the bag, too. Also present was core member Bertie Roberts who smiled happily at the arrival of company. When Mary Pat entered the dining room, I placed the box of CDs on the dining room table and showed the four core members a photograph of Patrick. I explained that the gift was from him, and that his family wanted The Arch to have his music after he died.

I handed the Beatles CD to Mary Pat and invited Bob and Keith to look through the rest of the collection of music. The assortment included current rock ‘n roll, country western, Gospel, other Christian music, Christmas carols and vocalists.

Bob and Keith were delighted to find some of their favorite recording artists among the selection; Bob pointed to different singers featured on the CDs and asked if they were dead. Bob apparently figured that if Patrick was dead, those singers must be dead, too!

I left Arch 1 feeling uplifted, as I always do after spending time with friends who are so genuinely delighted with the gifts they receive and the guests who enter their home. Patrick’s gift wasn’t just a gift for Arch 1; it was also a gift that allowed me to embrace the true meaning of Christ’s birth.

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