Close Close

Blackbird, fly

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

A dear friend of mine once told me in high school that there is no mood so bad that it couldn’t be cured by listening to the Beatles for 20 minutes. He’s right, you know. Give it a try. Either your mood will improve, or you simply don’t like the Beatles, in which case, there isn’t much I can do for you.

I became an avid Beatles fan, and of their many delightful songs, I took a special liking to “Blackbird,” a short and lovely song inspired in part by Paul McCartney and George Harrison’s efforts to master Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bourrée in E minor, a tricky string piece for the lute, but often played on classical guitar. It is a lovely, lovely song. And now, I’ll probably never think of it the same way again after watching a viral video of a father singing it to his infant son.

On November 8, 30-year-old Ashley Picco died after an emergency C-section that delivered her son, Lennon James, at only 24 weeks old. Ashley’s husband, Chris told the NICU staff at Loma Linda University Hospital that Ashley often felt her son moving to music, and so he asked to bring his guitar into the NICU unit and sing to Lennon James. He did this for hours, and one of the songs he sung was “Blackbird.”

The day after this video was shot, Lennon James Picco died. He was just a few days old.

There are a few things this story brings to mind. The first is an old saying that life insurance for your little ones is an unnecessary expense. You see this get trotted out by financial advice bloggers and columnists who don’t really know much about life insurance. Chris Picco lost both his wife and his son in the same week. I do not know what his final medical and funerary expenses were, but they must have been substantial, for his employer started a fund drive for people to donate to them. To date, it has raised over $113,000. Regardless of Chris Picco’s financial state, what happened to him could happen to anybody. It happens a lot less often these days thanks to advances in health care, but that health care is so expensive, that using it brings up a whole host of different problems. Which brings me to my second point.

Health care is expensive. It just is. Critics of Obamacare (myself included) have often noted that the law doesn’t target the real issue – how much health care costs. And yet, if it did, I suspect there would have been exponentially more opposition to it than there already was. So however you looked at it, Obamacare was an effort to fix a pretty dysfunctional system on behalf of a public that was going to hate the outcome, whatever that outcome was.

And Obamacare is a mess. Of that, there can be no doubt. But I look at this video, and I think of Lennon James Picco. It surely cost more than a few dollars to give him the care he received before he died. I don’t know what his father and mother had arranged before all of this, but it seems to me that if a for-profit health care system is really the best way to get the most health care to the most people in the most efficient manner possible, it also accepts, as a collateral effect that for every Lennon James out there, there is some other child who simply can’t get that care because it can’t be paid for, ultimately. 

This is America. We can surely do better. Whatever that better is, it would be awfully inspiring if between private industry and public services, we had a system that could really deliver on the promise that anybody who gets sick or who needs medical care in this country can actually get it without fear of having to rely on a viral video and a Kickstarter campaign to pay for it all.

Like I said…what happened to Chris Picco could happen to anybody. We are all morally obligated to provide for our own families first and foremost, but sometimes things happen that are beyond our ability to pay for them. Insurance is supposed to be the best solution for that, except when it comes to health care, it isn’t. It has not been for a long time. And the government has only made things more complicated, frankly. 

Somehow, countries with a fraction of our GDP have figured out a pretty good solution for all of this. As for us, we’re too busy fighting with ourselves to actually fix the problems that need fixing. We can do better. And yet…we’re not. And that is a damned shame.

Chris Ashley and Lennon Picco