Sing Away, Gone

Today is December 1st. The holiday season is once more upon us, a time for prayers of peace and goodwill to all. Nights fall sooner, but the lights of Christmas shine all the more brightly. The aroma of trees and candles and delicious baked treats fill the air, and the sounds of favorite songs complete the sensory experience. “O Holy Night” has been a long time favorite of mine.

Since the age of thirteen, music has had me in thrall, with the past decade finding music at the center of most everything I did. Psalm 150:6 clearly states “let everything with breath, Praise the Lord.” Surely this admonition sings best during the season of Advent.

But times change. This past year I’ve seen music fall away from my day to day, with the very hope and desire and dream of music becoming as ephemeral as the stuff of dreams itself. Today begins a season for me that is the antithesis of joy and praise. The world has not ended and no lives have been lost…

Let me interrupt my own musings. I have no illusion as to who may or may not read these words I publish. In fact, there is a particular freedom in knowing that I speak aloud to no one.

I said ‘the world has not ended and no lives have been lost.’ But that’s not entirely true. Much of who I have been my entire life is gone. I have no idea when or if the things that made me who I was will ever return. It is a stranger that types these words and stares back at me from the mirror.

Sorry for dramatic words, but no one has forced you to read them. The pain of loss and failure is real, folks.

Some will chastise, saying that as Christians we should find joy and hope in every circumstance. That may be true. Faith still burns inside, but it’s a small flame that flickers and sputters against these cold winds. I truly think it is a disservice to the faith we profess not to let our hearts ring true, whether in times of triumph and joy, or loss and grief.

So how, during days of loss, do I praise the Lord?

Christ promised that those who grieve and mourn will find comfort and peace. So, for me to grieve and mourn and bear witness to His promise is through song.

So how to proclaim when music recedes into the distance?

I lament…

Lord, let these days run by
And hurry to the end
I’ve had my fill of daylight
Time for darkness to descend
It’s a longing to be over
Like a race run too long
And grace sits blind and helpless
As law condemns the wrong

Sing away
Sing away, gone
Sing away
But don’t sing too long

“Less”

It is a hard and terrible thing to be misunderstood, and harder still to lack the skill and courage to make your true self known.

Sad to gain this insight after all the years, now feeling helpless and clueless and utterly less.

So what to do when the fire is all but extinguished and there are no more stories and melody and rhyme?

The world turns
The heart still yearns
For the love we are unlearning

Cameron’s Start

The day has finally come. Even as I type these words, you have arrived at Independence High School for your final instructions. In a couple of hours, you’ll make the long walk, shake a hand or three, and receive your diploma. Tassels will move and caps thrown toward the sky. We’ll be cheering and crying with love and pride for you.

And then it’ll be over. You’ll have graduated to the next level, taken a step into what life holds for you. It will be time to commence.

You’ll hear much today about life and plans and goals and dreams. Some of it will be cliche but a nugget or two will stick with you. All of it is good.

All I have to say is you’ve planned and prepared and now it’s just more doing until the next phase or level or whatever you want to call it. That’s just life.

Plans can change. Dreams can be attained or not. Much will happen after your cap falls from the sky and comes down to earth.

Remember to trust your heart.

I love you. I’m proud of you. Life is waiting for you.

Dad

A Day Will Come…?

Remembering lost words…

“A Day Will Come…?”

It has been weeks or years
Since last I held music in my arms
Cradling the wood against me
Feeling the bite of steel in flesh
Caressed by a minor key
And lost in the magic of tone and rhythm
The tools of my trade are locked away
Safe in the prison of their cases
Free from broken chords
And halting melodies of despair or hope
Will a day come when I reopen the book of spells
Trying to remember lost chords
So now the rocks must cry out
And sing the songs of gladness

April’s Fool

Working my way through this new normal
A familiar shadow falls near
Brushing the edge of spirit’s hunger
Excitement gives way to fear
Reconditioned to shield myself
Like a dog and a ringing bell
Building my walls taller and stronger
A refuge for this infidel heart
A place where music plays no part

“Cold Today”

It’s cold outside today.

An overriding grey hugs the tree line and neutralizes the sun and shadows.
It’s not a crisp and invigorating cold;
It’s a bitter and numbing iciness that leaves a hollow in your bones and turns your heart lonely.

Fire doesn’t seem to get past your skin in this kind of cold.
It’s enough to make the lost want to be found…
Even if just to feel warmth again
Even just the memory of it.

“Opened to Wonder”

Do you remember the first time you found wonder?

I do. I’ve been remembering each one of them.

Curious George Goes to the Hospital, the last book in this beloved series and the first favorite of Forrest Gump and yours truly. It is the first book I remember loving, and it opened the door for all the rest.

Thuvia, Maid of Mars by the great Edgar Rice Burroughs. Holding and reading the near crumbling remains of what I know now to have been a first edition hardcover from 1920.
I found it lost and alone in our family bookcase, right above all the endless volumes of green bound Encyclopedia Brittanica. I discovered treasure that day indeed.

A childish first grade cartoon about Robin Hood scrawled by me (complete with dialogue), winning the attention of Mrs. Bankston and a trip to the principals office for kudos. I thought I had done something wrong and was in trouble…

The Letter, by the Box Tops, a song all but unknown to the rest of my second grade classmates, much to my bewilderment. They most certainly didn’t have a clue about the Beatles.

Many years later it was the first time my newly teenaged finger raked across the strings of my brothers Alvarez 12-string guitar, filling the room with glory and sealing my fate for life.

When Mr. Widener, the Erwin HS band director defended one of my feeble bass solo attempts from the derision of an upper classman by declaring me to have “more music in my little finger” than the heckling senior. Humbling to be sure (it was a bass solo after all).

The moment when a room full of your peers goes silent at the end of one of your songs, only to erupt with applause.

These are the moments when your eyes are opened to wonder, to creativity. When the spark inside erupts into flame, a fire that consumes doubt and fear.

Yet doubt and fear are never far. Creativity comes at a cost. Even remembering requires a heavy price.

There is a verse that says we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but “powers and principalities” and all manner of spiritual adversaries. While I know and believe that to be true, there are battles that are waged here in what passes for the real world. And for me the powers and principalities I war against are cowardice and fear and despair.
In every battle there are the fallen and forgotten. I have been lost in the ruin of myself, a victim of wounds both physical and spiritual. But there is strength in remembering, a spark of flame in the distance of memory, a reward worthy of risk at any cost.

The Show Must Go On

It has been said that ‘some things are too broken to ever be fixed.’

Faith whispers just the opposite, but my heart and life sing a different song. Today I feel every part of broken. ‘All my choices have gone awry’ as Strider admits at the end of a tragic journey that ends in fire and despair.

In music, a horrible final rehearsal usually denotes a great performance to come, and it’s also said that life is a dress rehearsal for something glorious.

If that is the case, then the rehearsal of my life promises Glory beyond the circles of this world.

I am tired of rehearsing. Open the curtain and bring on the show…

The Choice

Everyone has a memory from the day the towers fell.

Close your eyes and you can still see the haunting images from that horrible day: planes colliding with glass and steel, smoke and dust and panic in the streets…tales of valor and heroism, and the heartbreak stories of loved ones left behind.

All this and more will be recounted tomorrow as our country remembers the deep wounds inflicted upon us. Cries of vengeance will once again fill the air, yet retribution will not return those lost that day.

The image seared upon my soul from 911 is of those who leapt from the burning towers. Death was a certainty, and their only choice was how to meet it.

What must they have felt? Fear, most certainly. And from the unasked-for choice thrust upon them, despair and hopelessness. Most fell alone, but some met their end hand in hand.

I will remember the hopeless, and honor the memory of those brave souls who faced and entered eternity by the fall and not the flames.

I remember and will never forget.

The Last Time

It was only ten long years ago when I saw her last. We had just moved to the Nashville area, yet this weekend I was once again working in Birmingham (as I would for many years). I don’t even remember where and for whom I was playing. All I know is that Katrina was ravaging the Gulf and was making herself known even this far north and beyond. I was anxious to get back to the new house in Tennessee that would be home for the long decade to come.

She was ill, and had been for a while. My visits were becoming more infrequent despite my continued presence in the area. There was more than a share of guilt and fear that shadowed my heart, and my memories of hospitals and abandonment played out in my avoidance of those hurts and the frail, aging woman who seemingly embodied them.

It had been a long day, and night and Katrina’s storms were falling. I had promised to stop by on the way back, but still wrestled with myself as to find a way to circumvent the visit.

Love and loyalty and guilt won out over fear and hurt when I saw my mother for the last time.

All I remember was the watery gleam of her eyes in the flickering glow from the nearby television. She couldn’t speak, forcing me to mumble pleasantries and empty promises for my next visit. She opened her mouth and the words “I love you” crumbled from her lips. I replied in kind, kissed her dry as dust cheek, and left for my long drive.

It seemed that I rode Katrina’s coat tails on the way back, my car buffeted by wind and constant rain. My heart was heavy and my thoughts filled with images and memories of my mom.

While her spirit didn’t find release until the early part of March, my farewell was granted on a stormy night in August ten years gone.

Much has changed and much has been lost. While memory remains I embrace the moments that define a life, and learn the lessons of last times.


“Cross the River”

I cross the river
And I think of you
Memories haunt me
But you never do
The river is deep
This river wide
Wide as my longing
Deep as my pride

River flow on to the sea
River roll and set me free
River flow inside my soul
Wash the stains and make me whole