A brother who has died, and a sister who lives on, CONNECT...through song!
Lisa's brother Steve died unexpectedly at the age of 36. In attending to her grief she did two astonishing things--one which made the papers in St. Louis where she lives, and one which helped her grieving father to finally cry with her. I want to tell you briefly about both of those things, because it will give you an idea of what an inspired and inspiring person Lisa is, and it will provide the back-story out of which this month's featured song, The Connection, grew. When Lisa's brother Steve died, he left behind a life-dream of refinishing, to very exact plans, a once-fine, run-down house he had purchased many years earlier, in downtown St. Louis. He died before he was able to raise the funds for his vision. Lisa transformed her grief into a miracle, gathering the funds and completing the house, along with her extended family, as a labor of love. As the project came to completion, she had a second transformative idea when she learned about what I do: She commissioned a song for Father's Day, for her dad, in the voice of Steve. Steve and his dad had not had an easy relationship, and when Lisa shared that song, which was called Regained, with her dad, father and daughter were able to cry together for the first time since Steve's death. (That song, incidentally, was featured on the Brave Records website in May of last year for Father's Day and created a phenomenal spike in their website visits as people across the country and around the world shared the song on Fathers Day.)
The whole time that I was creating the song "Regained" for Lisa to give to her father on Father's Day, I kept "hearing" snippets of something else, and the more I tuned in to it, the more it became clear to me that what I was hearing was a different song, still in the voice of Steve, but distinct, in that it was a song from Steve TO LISA. I was unsure of what to do about this and so at the time just jotted down the little bits and pieces, and kept going on my assigned project. But in the aftermath of the beautiful success of that first song, I re-contacted Lisa and explained that there was another song floating around me, if she was interested. At the time, she was pretty overwhelmed with the intensity of the "Regained" experience, and she decided to just sit with it. But a few months later, as the anniversary of Steve's death approached, she contacted me and said, with some trepidation and a lot of bravery, simply: "I am ready." We talked some, and she shared that, while she had felt an intense connection to her brother in life, and in the grieving project of rebuilding his dream-house, as the months wore on she felt less and less able to tap into that powerful link that had existed between them, and she began to feel increasingly guilty that somehow there was more she should have done, or should be doing now. It was a vague feeling but it haunted her a bit, in a way that left her feeling sad and disconnected and numb, and it had become exacerbated by the poignant "loss" of her son's leaving home to go to college. Thus, it was time. She gave me her blessings to head off to the Maine woods where I do some of my best writing, to let this song from brother (deceased) to sister (right here and feeling lost) come through. I went, and it came through in a strikingly pure fashion, such that I knew I really had something as soon as the first words started showing up.
It would be impossible to share all the details about the bringing to life of this song. But I want to attempt to put into words a few things. As I have said on many occasions, I don't know exactly what "channeling" is. But I clearly felt some kind of a presence with me when this song came through. It took a long time to prepare to write the song (months of getting to know Lisa, hours to drive up to Maine, etc.) but it took only minutes to write it, as it came through pretty much "whole cloth." I had several pages of notes about what this song was "supposed to say" or how it was "supposed to develop" but as soon as I was willing to let go of all of my ideas and personal investments in the song, what ultimately came was, to my way of thinking, a much "higher" version of all the things I "thought the song was supposed to do." When the song was done I grabbed a tissue and just cried and cried. And I felt a presence there somehow weeping with me. But they were happy tears. I felt once again a kind of wonder at the idea that maybe there really ARE energies around us that allow us to plug in to something larger. After all, if love never dies, then why wouldn't it be possible to re-connect with it whenever one offered up the simple words, "I am ready." Finally, I have shared the following anecdotally with a few close friends, and so far no one has found me completely off my rocker, so I will make the stretch and share it here. After I had sat with the song for a few minutes I "saw" in my mind's eye a Christmas tree, and a little boy (2? 3? 4 years old?) running around it in circles and very excited. "Okay, okay, okay!" he was braying in a sing-song excited little way, "We did it! We did it! Okay, show it to her--do it quick, don't wait to make it fancy. It's ready! It's ready now!" while around and around the tree he went, flapping his arms and laughing. I didn't know what I was seeing (and yet I did). In any event, I came back to Cambridge and quickly recorded a simple acoustic guitar version of the song in the studio. This is nothing I normally would do (the process is for me to make a simple cassette version and give it to a client to review and make comments). But this time I marched straight into the studio--without "client approval"--and did as I was told (you can hear that original acoustic version, too). I also followed the "instructions" I had gotten from "Steve" to communicate to Lisa that her first hearing of this song was very important, and that she should light a candle, make sure she was alone, and listen on a high-quality CD player (vs. an mp-3 on the computer). Finally, when I talked her through the songwriting experience, and told her about the strange Christmas-tree-and-little-boy awareness I had had, she said, brightly, "Yep, that was him!" I also explained to her that this song is "strange" in that it does not follow the rules of songwriting in many ways (no verse-chorus set-up, and, in fact, it uses a bunch of "made up" chords in an alternate guitar tuning that I had never tried or known about before). Lisa also assured me that, "That's Steve too! Tell him what the rules were and he would always find an alternative way to do it." When Lisa eventually heard that first acoustic version, she was deeply moved, though she shared that it took several listenings, spaced out over time, before she was really able to take in what the song was saying to her. Eventually, though, she reached a point where she began to be ready to share it with others. In November she wrote:
I shared "The Connection" at the Annie's Hope board meeting tonight (the board I serve on for grieving children). Many tears from fellow board members! We are going to share the song at our "Hope & Healing" event when families come and pay tribute to the loved one they have lost ....
And in reviewing this write-up you are currently reading she wrote again about an even deeper level of sharing:
Anna, you have brought tears to my eyes again this morning (but happy ones). I am so thankful you allowed Steve's message to come (even when that wasn't the assignment). Thank you for listening, and caring enough to wait for me to be ready. You are an amazing artist, but more importantly, you have become a friend! Can't wait for this to "go live" ... I feel as if "I'm Ready" to share this with the world. By the way, Steve's birthday is March 31st and I've been thinking about him ALOT ... your timing is perfect.
THE RECORDING STORY
Eventually I did go back into the studio and record a "full" multi-layered version of The Connection, in alignment with my own vision for fleshing it out, and inspired greatly by the arranging, piano playing, and vocal accompaniment of Sandi Hammond. (Oh! That Sandi Hammond!!) Sandi is a good friend and an inspired musician and I knew she was the one to turn to to help me get this song brought to life. We created it together at The Moontower studio in Cambridge with the mixing and engineering help of Darren the "Excellent Oozing Sound Guy" Ottaviani. (You will note one word change in this final, fully-produced version. We recorded a version without the word "sis" in it, because we felt this song could be shared by more people, and could meaningfully apply to more situations, with a gender-neutral, relationship-neutral message.) PLEASE consider sharing either version of this song with anyone you know who is feeling disconnected from a loved one, living or deceased, family member or otherwise. These songs are graciously offered up for sharing by the one who commissioned them--in this case Lisa--so that others may find healing as well.
Close your eyes
Close your eyes
And feel, and feel
The Connection, The Connection
Close your eyes
Your heart, your arms
Feel my love for you
Feel it breaking through
Your perception, your perception
Don’t resist this
Don’t miss this
Don’t turn away in guilt
Just trust what we have built:
We have built
(c) 2007 Anna Huckabee Tull / Custom Crafted Songs
- Hear the Father's Day song Lisa originally commissioned, called Regained
- Read Lisa's personal write-up for the AI community (Appreciative Inquiry community) about this song
© 2007 Anna Huckabee Tull. The rights for both versions of this song are filed and registered with the United States Copyright Office as a Sound Recording by Anna Huckabee Tull. Copies of these songs may not be sold or bartered. But sharing? Sharing is the best thing in the world!! Please share this song, especially if you know someone who you think may benefit from hearing it, and making a "connection" that is meaningful to them.