So, my Dad died.
On New Year’s Day 2016…
Less than two hours after midnight. And I watched him die.
In one word… DEVASTATION.
If I may, metaphorically, losing my Dad is a DEVASTATION bowl of ice-cream topped with bitter loneliness, anger, dead spiders, tar, fear, mud, needles, shards of glass, vomit and void.
I’m a musician and my father my musical root. He taught me how to play guitar. He accompanied me the first time I sang to an audience. My father’s love of music was passed down to me completely and his death seemed to rob it completely from me… I haven’t sang a note in two years. I haven’t touched a guitar. I haven’t even been able to be in the same room as music. When music is a big part of your heart and now your heart is broken, music hurts… a lot.
Something finally snapped me back this week… Snatched me from the quicksand that is grief. I could actually feel and smell spring on the way today. For the first time in two years, I want to make music. Tonight I have hope. I’m finally brave enough to play music. I want to live out the melody in my head and make beautiful guitar chords so I get out my dad’s favorite guitar, Jack Special (Jack).
A little history on Jack (named after a dear friend who is no longer with us): It was the first guitar I purchased in my early 20s. That guitar was in my hand through every song I ever wrote; every song I ever recorded; every time I played a gig; every band practice; every time I had a broken heart; every bad day; every good day; every bored day; and every other kind of day. Jack Special is a great guitar. The first time I let my dad play it, he fell in love with the action and said it had the most beautiful, full sound.
Years later, following college graduation, I moved to a larger city in hopes of a better income and a brighter future for me and my son (Brody). So there I was, a single mom earning an entry-level salary with sizable expenses and I was a long way from home. I was devastatingly broke and even more homesick… I remember living on $20 a week after rent and bills. I could rarely fill my gas tank. One winter, I couldn’t afford to buy Christmas gifts for my parents and Christmas is a big deal to my family. I was broken-hearted at the prospect of showing up for Christmas empty-handed because my parents were so special to me. So I gave them my only two possessions of any value: a diamond ring that my mother had always admired and Jack Special for my dad. It just made sense to me. He loved to play guitar more than any person I’ve ever known and he appreciated my guitar as much as I did so I tied a gift tag to its case and singed it “To: Papa, From: Brody & Summer.”
I basically had to fight with my dad before he would accept my gift. He just couldn’t stand to take anything from his children. That’s just the kind of father he was. He finally relented, but he tried to give it back every single time I saw him thereafter. But he truly loved that guitar. He played it constantly.
It was always within his reach. Parked in a guitar stand near his recliner, it was there for him whenever he was sad; whenever he was happy; whenever he was bored; and just whenever. After he retired, he had more time to enjoy music. I have so many precious memories of him leading worship bands in churches or sitting in his living room singing and holding Jack Special. It was the guitar in his hands the night he played music with friends at church on New Year’s Eve then later dropped to the floor when a a brain aneurysm stole his life.
Jack Special was more than my creative muse and more than my father’s favorite possession: It was the instrument God used to create a stronger bond between me and my father and the instrument God used to teach me an important lesson in giving all those Christmases ago.
Tonight, I got it out of the case intending to play music for the first time since he died. As I stopped it up into my arms, I felt something rustling inside. It was the same feeling as a trapped guitar pick bouncing off the walls of the guitar’s interior, only lighter than a pick. Without a doubt, something was in there. Fluttering about…
I turned the body over, held it above my head and shook it from side to side until a little paper forget-me-not fell out onto my lap. It read, “To: Papa From: Brody & Summer”
I love you, Dad…