On Thursday, Joey’s mama, sister, and nephew came to visit us from Indiana. June made a new spring flower arrangement for Joey's wooden cross and we spent a good bit of time together out at the cemetery, thinking of Joey and trying to process that this weekend, it's been five years since she passed away. Oh, how quickly the sands of time have slipped through our fingers.
The next afternoon, all the kids and teachers from the schoolhouse joined us on a blanket by the cross and we talked about Indy's Mama and I shared pictures with them from some of our old photo albums and Joey's high school yearbook. They asked lots of sweet questions and picked daffodils nearby and brought them to me and then laid them by the cross.
Death is a scary thing for most children. For most of us grown-ups too I think. We aren't quite sure how to deal with it. When we lose a loved one, a flood of emotions runs through us and we all naturally respond and grieve a little differently. Some of us are filled with gratitude for the time we had with them, and some are angry, that their time here with us and our time with them, has ended too soon. Most fall somewhere in between, or go back and forth between lots of different emotions as time passes. This blog post is about some of those feelings...
Joey met Sandy Lawrence about 20 years ago, probably around the time she and I met. They both worked at a horse-vet clinic nearby and were both interested in music... Sandy in writing songs and Joey in singing them. Their love of good horses and great songs bonded them as close friends ever since.
When Joey passed away, Sandy was angry. And more than a little frustrated in the outcome of all the chemo and radiation that Joey was put through and also the outcome of all the prayers Joey and millions of other people prayed on her behalf. And as great writers do, she put that frustration down in a song. "Country music," Harlan Howard used to say, is “three chords and truth.” And I think it is, even when the truth hurts.
A year or so after Joey passed away, Sandy sent me a song in an email that just said, “...I had to get this song out of me to come to peace with the loss of my friend.” I've probably listened to the song a hundred times since then. And I understand her feelings. Although I think I fall on the side of gratitude most of the time, I have had moments of frustration that only leave me with more questions.
This fall when I decided to make a new album, that song Sandy emailed me was the first song we chose to record. In some ways, it was also the hardest. It said some very tough things. Some honest things that I believe it's okay to be human and feel, and maybe even important to share with others.
A few weeks ago, Sandy’s husband Jack saddled his horse and came and paid his respects to my pretty bride as the sun set and the sandhill crane's made their yearly trip through the skies overhead. Back to where something inside them is calling them to be.
Jack’s face. Sandy’s words. My voice.
And one angel...
If you have been following our story, you probably know that Joey and I recorded another one of Sandy’s songs back in 2011. It was a beautiful lyric that Sandy had written to help her deal with her own mother’s passing. We made a video for that song a few months later here at the farm with Joey in a pretty black dress singing. And Sandy, surrounded by candles, playing piano nearby.
In the video, because of the story that the song told... we pretended that Joey was buried in the cemetery behind our farmhouse and I was having to go on living here in the farmhouse without her...
It's strange, the power that songs have. That music has.
Five years ago at this very moment, we were about to start Joey's funeral service. About to close a chapter of our lives, and pray for the strength to let God turn the page, and show us the next part of the story He would be writing with our lives. After all the time that's passed, it is very clear that Joey may not be here physically, but she is still a very special part of the stories we get to tell, the songs we get to sing, and the life we get to live.
Like it was that March day in 2016, it is a beautiful sunny morning here and the daffodils are blooming all around the farm. Spring is upon us and I can't help but think that I, just like the world, am just beginning to waken from a long, hard winter.