When I was 11 years old, I wrote a song. It was a Jesus loving, rapture-end-of-days song inspired by the movie “A Thief in the Night.” I also made up a guitar rhythm to accompany the song. It was childishly simple and consisted of the keys G, C and D since those were the only ones I knew. Somehow, we had possession of an inexpensive guitar. The details are vague. Somehow I learned how to play a few chords. Probably at one of the 3-tmes-a-week church meetings we attended, my dad having recently found Jesus around that time in the 1970s.
I quickly completed the lyrics and went into the living room, guitar in hand. I embarrassingly and shyly...rare for me...played the song with my three chords while crooning along in my low alto. I read the words off of a scrap of notebook paper but kept losing my place as I glanced toward my left hand to ensure the finger placement was truly in position for a G, C or D. By the time I was finished, my face was red and I was a little sweaty. Could have been mortification at thinking I could write and sing a song. Could have been the intensity of the Florida summer heat. I may never know.
But what I do know is that my Daddy looked at me with an incredulous look on his face and then burst into applause. “Did you just write that?”
“Yes,” I mumbled.
“That is amazing. Inspired by the Lord.”
Over the next 45 years of my life, he would ask me at family gatherings to “sing that song that you wrote.” I would always decline stating things like “I have a sore throat.” or “I think I hear Mama calling me.” or “It's stupid.” or more recently, “You know I can't sing anymore since I fell.” After falling on black ice years ago and ending up with a concussion and vertigo off and on for over a year, I lost my ability to hear and sing the music. He was always disappointed and I pretended not to notice.
Last night my Daddy passed away. It was after a heart attack. He was on life support for 24 hours, time enough for the family to come together to say our goodbyes. We had all life support measures removed last night while we were all gathered around his bedside. There were nine of us grieving in our own ways. We held his hands, rubbed his forehead and my mama kept tapping his cheeks and lips with little hand kisses.
It was quiet as his breathing stopped. Our eyes were glued to the monitor as his damaged heart continued to beat. It would slow and at one point it stopped but then continued on its steady pace. It was miraculous that it sustained for over 20 minutes with no breath entering his lungs.
My sister began to sing “Hallelujah,” a church hymn that he always loved in her pure and lovely soprano. We all joined in. I sang it in a whisper. His heart still held true. It seemed as if he was waiting for something.
It came to my mind “sing that song that you wrote.” Ignoring the thought,“Maybe someone should say a prayer,” I offered. My sister said a prayer asking for grace and mercy. His heart beat on.
“Sing that song” in my mind. “What else can we sing that he liked?” My sister inquired. I cleared my throat and hesitantly said. “I could sing that song that I wrote that he always liked.” All eyes turned my way for a moment and then back to the heart monitor. Still steady.
I spoke the first words hesitantly. I said them wrong then started again. I didn't think I could remember. Then the words came and I began to sing. Just as the first words left my mouth in the warble that is now my norm, the music came back to me and it came out on key. His heart came to a halt as the family all joined in on the chorus. He was at rest. He had finally convinced me to sing that song.
Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.