Powerful: Keyboardist comes out of hospice to play at law enforcement appreciation retreat

Editor's note: In a previous version of this article, BGEA was incorrectly titled. This version corrects that and properly calls the organization the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

CLE ELUM, WA - The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) hosted a law enforcement appreciation marriage retreat near Seattle, Washington. The nonprofit has hosted several similar events around the nation, from North Carolina to Texas.

During the event, the Tommy Coomes Band was in attendance to lead the large gathering in worship, as they normally are. This time, however, one band member was able to make the trip against all odds.

Gary Verrill plays keyboard with the band. He has been fighting multiple types of cancer since 2014. Several weeks ago, he was told by his doctors that there’s nothing else they can do for him, and he was placed in hospice.

“He didn’t let that stop him from being here to show his appreciation to all of you,” band leader Tommy said to the group of police and their spouses. He added that Gary called on two of his children to bring him to the retreat, which is a two-hour drive from his Whitby Island home, so he could play for the three days.

Gary’s children, Rachel and Rusty, served as his caretakers for the weekend, as his wife, Signe, who is normally in that role, had to stay back to continue to care for her ill mother. Gary and Signe have been married for over 30 years. They have five kids and three grandkids.

“I’m very nauseated. All the time I am. And I’m so tired. Medications don’t work for that. But I really wanted to be here. And since I can’t fly anymore, and the band is going to Florida next, this will be the last show I play, unless God decides to heal me.”

Aside from being grateful to police in general, Gary said he has a personal connection to the law enforcement community through his cousin, Kathy Kelley, who is an officer in Florida. “I’m so proud of her and what she’s done. I’m so appreciative of our police; I can’t believe how inspired I am by them. They have some tough roads. They face so much, especially around here and during these times.”

Gary has been a part of Billy Graham’s team as a worship band member for the last 15 years. He also spent over 30 years with big names such as Disney and Cirque du Soleil. Additionally, he was part of a band with Paul Allen of Microsoft for 15 years, during which time he traveled and played on his fleet of huge yachts.

He grew up in Maine, and in 1982 he rode his bike from Seattle to Maine- 3,170 miles. He realized his time qualified for Race Across America. He proceeded to complete that race six times in his life, with the best time being 10 days, five hours, and 27 minutes. During those 10-day races, he slept a total of six hours.

Doctors have posited that his active lifestyle, especially biking, has prolonged his life significantly in the wake of three separate cancer diagnoses.

Gary said that one of his heroes in life has been Franklin Graham. “He’s an amazing human,” he said. “He inspires me. He travels the globe and done so many things for people. There’s things he does that no one will ever know about. I’m so thankful to him for letting me be a part of this.”

He said he would like to tell law enforcement to make sure they keep a good relationship with God. “Love the Lord,” he said, “and love your family. It all comes down to that. It’s the simple things.

“I can’t imagine this being the last show I do, but it is. I’m not ready to go, but of course that’s for God to decide. I want the police to know that I’m not the only one out there that’s eternally grateful to you,” Gary said.

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Thank you, Gary, for setting the example. I think people, who are not fans of law enforcement, but who believe in God, will change their perception of it after reading and absorbing your testimony.

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