Wednesday, August 13, 2014

As simple as a song

I guess you could call it a perfect storm; the culmination of many little streams in my world, all coming together to create a rushing river – seemingly out of nowhere. I haven’t blogged in what seems like forever. (I didn't post anything in 2013!!) I’ve missed it. I have so many people I want to share this story with; I thought it was best to just write a post. I hope it makes sense!

A little background.
This Labor Day weekend is Kristen’s 6th birthday. Or what should be anyway. I should be planning a princess birthday party and shopping with a kindergarten back-to-school list. But God apparently has better plans for me, plans that will bring me a hope and a future. He promises that He will work ALL things out for the good of those who love Him. Not sure how He’s gonna work this one out, but I don’t know how to make mountains or a universe either, so I’ll leave the supernatural to Him. I digress.

The months before Kristen was born, I would spend the quiet summer nights online (thanks insomnia!), perusing the internet for inspiration for newborn photos and our upcoming baby announcements. I found myself coming back to one particular photographer’s website over and over again. Her name is Erin and she is in Michigan. Her business name is “FootprintsPhotography” named after the story of God’s footprints showing in the sand during the hard times in life when He carries us. She had a song playing on her website that I found soothing and would come to her website just to listen to the song! It was IZ’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I probably heard that song hundreds of times that summer! It never got old.

Fast-forward to Labor Day weekend 2008 when my world came crashing in. Newborn pictures became our ONLY photos except they weren’t the posed and cute ones I had wanted to imitate. However, we were insanely blessed by two close friends who are professional photographers that came and took photos of our last hours with Kristen. Combined we have close to 1000 photos of her short 64 hours! We used those photos for a slideshow at her memorial service. When it came to choosing the song for the slideshow, the only option was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It had unintentionally become the soundtrack to my pregnancy.

A crazy thing about music is that is can transport you to another time/place with just a note or two. That’s great when it’s a positive memory, but not so great when it’s tied to memories that are painful. We had a worship CD that we played in our room during our last hours with Kristen. When I hear those songs, I can still remember exactly what I was doing when it was playing. We gave her a bath during one particular song; we were cutting her hair and getting her dressed during another song. I don’t play that CD anymore. Not because I don’t like the music – that was why I played it that day in the first place, but because it transports me to a time/place I need to be in the right frame of mind to visit. Sadly, I haven’t made the effort to “go there” in a long time, so the thought of it is daunting. It is just easier to not listen to it. Which is what I’ve done with the Rainbow song for years. I’ll find a way to skip to the next song, go to another room, etc, when the song is played, because I don’t want to “go there.” Kevin has even picked up on this, catching my eye when the song plays in public and asking if I’m okay. I just paste on a smile and know it will be over in a few minutes. But God has creative ways of bringing healing, even when we resist something as simple as a song.

A couple of months ago I was looking for a YouTube video for Katelynn of this really cool classical music channel we had found earlier. In my searching, I happened upon a music video by “The Piano Guys” and it was really neat! The girls and I watched a couple more of their songs and found we really liked their music. A couple of weeks later I heard about Amazon Prime’s free music that I could play on my phone and I found The Piano Guys on there. I had them on repeat for almost a full week before I got another artist on my phone!!

What does this have to do with anything? They just happen to have a beautiful rendition of the Rainbow song. I found myself not skipping it when it would come on, but rather enjoying it and looking forward to when it would play. HOWEVER, it’s combined with another song that has meaning too! They use the song “Simple Gifts” which was an old Shaker hymn, but most commonly known as “The Lord of the Dance”, which I had learned probably 30 years ago at summer camp! The combining of the two songs and their composition of the Rainbow song changed something for me, and I was finding myself really enjoying listening to it. It might have also been the lack of words, which allowed the music to be just that much more soothing. To have “Kristen’s song” combined with a song that brings back so many fond memories of my childhood and summer camp, and my early experiences of knowing God and learning about Him through music… helped me once again enjoy “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Side note: the girls and I have been listening to audio books this summer in the car. We just finished one of the “Dear America” books about a young girl who goes to live with the Shakers after her family dies from the Spanish flu in the early 1900s. She sings the “Simple Gifts” song on the CD and it was the first time I had heard the original song. What great timing!

Something about The Piano Guys’ rendition of the song helps take some of the sting out of it for me. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of words or maybe with having both songs together, it offsets the bitter sweet memories with the truly sweet ones from my childhood. Last night I went “back to the beginning” (thank you Princess Bride!) to Erin’s webpage and played the song in the background for almost two hours while I worked on some things and connected with a few people. I even wrote Erin to let her know of her influence in this crazy journey I've been on. Just so happens that Erin started an organization in Michigan that offers services of professional photography to the families of terminally ill infants and children. The photos on her webpage are breathtaking and heart breaking at the same time. I know the look in those mothers’ eyes. I also know their little babies are somewhere over the rainbow, where clouds are far behind them. And thanks to The Piano Guys, that thought is accompanied by the idea of them being led in a dance by the Lord Himself.

Dance, dance, wherever you may be 
I am the lord of the dance, said he 
And I lead you all, wherever you may be 
And I lead you all in the dance, said he.

This probably sounds really weird, but I like to leave my favorite taste on my plate for my last bite, so I have the best food as the aftertaste and reminder of what I just ate. I love the "aftertaste" that this simple song gives. It allows me to face the memories of that song, to "go there" without feeling overwhelmed with despair or grief. It leaves me with a beautiful reminder of what -and who - lies over the rainbow.

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