The colors were a bit faded, but the design of Lawrence Oriâ€™s only tattoo was still visible. He couldnâ€™t raise his arm proudly to show you anymore, but you could still see the Aerosmith logo there on his bicep.
Itâ€™s not just the tattoo. Aerosmith weaved its way through Oriâ€™s life in both obvious and subtle ways. His license plate read “ROCKN” and his cell phone played the band’s classic “Dream On”.
â€œHe turned me into a rocker chick,â€ said Joanie Dziak, Oriâ€™s girlfriend. â€œHe taught me to rock at age 50.â€
Ori, then 62, had supernuclear palsey, a degenerative condition that made it difficult for him to talk and move. But even as a hospice patient, when “Sweet Emotion” or “Rag Doll” came on, he tapped his feet and nodded his head in time with the music.
Ori knew that his days of “livin’ on the edge” were past, but some dreams are just too big to give up on â€“ like Oriâ€™s dream of meeting his rock hero Steven Tyler.
As his condition worsened, Ori knew his chance of meeting Tyler was growing slimmer. Even as he came to terms with his own death, he stayed loyal to his dream.
His family had gathered around his bed, donning black Aerosmith t-shirts in solidarity with their rocker friend. Aerosmithâ€™s greatest hits came from the CD player in the corner, and pictures of Ori at concerts were on the walls.
Then the word came: Steven Tyler is calling â€“ literally. In a flurry of movement and chatter, a computer was placed in front of Ori and Tylerâ€™s face came into view via a Skype video call.
â€œLawrence? This is Steven,â€ Tyler said. â€œIâ€™m coming to you from L.A. and Iâ€™m so glad to meet you.â€
Ori couldnâ€™t respond, but his eyes went wide. His girlfriend Joanie Dziak held his hand and spoke for him. Dziak told Tyler about Oriâ€™s passion for rock music and Aerosmith. She couldnâ€™t even count how many times Ori had seen the band in concert.
Oriâ€™s family waved and called their thanks from where they were situated around the room.
Thatâ€™s the great thing about music, Tyler said, that it brings people together and really gets into your soul.
â€œIt’s so beautiful to see so much love around him right now,â€ he added.
The call didnâ€™t last too long as Oriâ€™s strength was waning and his emotions were running as high as they ever had.
â€œYou hold on, Lawrence. I love you man,â€ Tyler said. â€œGreat to meet you.â€
Oriâ€™s eyes were full of unshed tears. Dziak bent down to hug him, whispering in his ear. The rest of his family quietly closed in on his bed, celebrating the moment that had been a lifetime coming.
Ori passed away that afternoon, with â€œDream Onâ€ in the background and a smile on his face.
The Skype call was arranged by the Passages Hospice Dream Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to fulfilling unmet wishes and improving quality of life among hospice patients.