"Getting there I think. Maybe you dial back in a bit more emotion in parts, but Phil will take care of that." - Eric Copeland
That was the response I got yesterday from Eric about the new vocal approach I've been working on for the song "You With Me." Well, hopefully Phil will help me nail it this week. When I asked Eric about the last minute lyric changes, he just said "less is always more". Now I just wait for word from Phil, but I might just have to wait until I get there Wednesday morning. That's ok. I like the changes and feel good about it.
As I write this, we are on our way home from North Carolina where we spent time this morning remembering my sister-in-law, Sue Drost, who passed away recently. The family asked me to sing at the funeral and I squirmed at their request. Have you ever attended something that sets off all kinds of land mines in your soul? You avoid those events if at all possible? No need to stir things up - just keep them buried. Funerals do that for me and though I wanted to honor the family, I was so afraid I would be a muddled mess of emotions and I really prefer not to sing in those circumstances.
However, I put those preferences aside and said yes, for them. As we got closer to the moment when I was to sing the beautiful song "You Raise Me Up" my fingers began to shake and my heart began to pound. I haven't been that nervous in a very long time. I began to analyze what was making me nervous while also paying attention to the tributes being given.
I was afraid. Afraid of my emotions getting out of control, afraid that I would cry and not be able to sing, or worse yet, try to sing in spite of tears and sing way off pitch and totally butcher the song. Then I began analyzing why I hate funerals in the first place. I've already been down that road so many times that I just decided to not even get on that bus.
I tried to think of funny things like cats barfing, or dead dry grass that crunches under my feet when I go to get the mail at our mailbox. I closed my eyes and pictured no one in the room and just me at the piano bearing my soul through the music. I prayed for peace and ability to press through. I asked what's the worst that could happen. Meanwhile, my husband leaned over and said "are you nervous"? Dah. Was it the earthquake in my hands or the bulging of my dress around my heart area that gave it away? Maybe he could hear the pounding?
Finally, in desperation, I tried to recall what coach Tom Jackson would tell me. Most of our fears come because we are so consumed with what others will think of us, which means we are self-focused.
"Think about your audience" Tom Jackson always says.
|Sue Drost and son, Derek|
Ok. So I began to think about the family and what they must be feeling. I thought about all the friends that were present who could use some encouragement. Sue Drost had touched many people's lives in her 4 1/2 year battle with cancer. Apparently they had given her 6 months to live, but she decided to live life to the fullest in the time she had left and in the process, it was obvious she had touched many people very deeply. I began to think of those people. What about her son who is to be married in September? What must it be like to lose your mom right before your wedding day? The doctor who treated Sue came to the funeral. It was the first cancer patient's funeral he had attended in 8 years of practice he said afterward. With tears in his eyes, he said "Sue taught me how much cancer can break someone's heart and how cancer can make someone's heart stronger." He was obviously touched by her life.
I began to breathe deep and exhale slowly. I walked to the piano not knowing if Tom's advice would help. I remembered singing at another funeral years ago where my tactics didn't help. I had placed a comic strip on the piano beside my music to help me focus. That didn't help. I caught one glance of the mother who lost her 13 year old son and that was it. I couldn't finish the song. His name was Nathan, the name of my brother who drowned in our farm pond.
I sat down at the piano, began to touch the keys and when it came time to open my mouth, it worked. No more shaking. No more heart pounding. Not one tear.
Plenty of tears came later when we sang:
my chains are gone
I've been set free
my God, my Savior has ransomed me
and like a flood
His mercy reigns
.....and I let the tears flow freely.
Maybe there is a lesson there beyond musical performances.....perhaps many of our fears and nerves are rooted in being too self-focused.
Many people commented to me how much they had been touched by the song and how amazed they were that I was able to make it all the way through. They have no idea the battle I had. I told a few people it was a miracle. And, it was.