James Taylor and a Lenten Journey

If you’re a faithful reader, you know that my sister lost her full term baby back in February. I’ve written in depth about the first days of that experience. This past Monday was the one-month mark since that occurred, and I feel ready to write again.

When my sister announced that she’d be having a boy and his name would be James, curiously, I had just purchased a $1 record at Salvation Army of James Taylor songs which featured “Sweet Baby James.” I had never heard it before, but I fell head over heels in love with it and thought it would be a cool gift that I could send a video of myself singing and playing it on guitar, as a lullaby gift for James upon his birth. Well, when he died, the song became that much more important. I could have totally forced myself to forget about it and forever be saddened by what might have been. For a few days that was my plan. I never wanted to hear the song, play the song, hum the song again. Just too painful.

But the days went by, I got to see my sister and family in Arkansas for the funeral, and I realized that the song needed to be a part of my mourning process. And since we were in the midst of Lent, with an extremely raw and sad experience, I realized I had an opportunity to really live into the rhythm of these difficult times. I decided that throughout Lent i would wear only dark green, blue, and black. I decided that I would not purchase any new music, browse any record stores, or buy anything new at all (clothes, books, etc). I needed to strip down and just ride the emotional waves as they came without consumeristic passions cluttering up my psyche. We still have about 10 days until Easter, and I’ve been faithful to this mild ascetic discipline. It has been healthy and difficult.

But it wasn’t until I recorded the song a couple of nights ago that I really paid attention to the lyrics. What would have been a sweet, light-hearted lullaby is now a profound discussion of the nature of grief and recovery. Consider:

“Rockabye sweet Baby James”: A whole different meaning now.

“Wont’ you let me go down in my dreams” Here James sings to us. Can we let him go? Do we want to?

“Ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go” – The journey is pretty much almost impossible. BUT

“There’s a song that they sing as they take to the highway / A song that they sing as they take to the sea / A song that they sing of their home in the sky [wow] / Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep [through the worst nights of anguish] / But singing works just fine for me.”

And the chorus repeats. And Lent continues. And I wear my deep greens and blues. I kind of don’t want to stop, but I am so excited about the coming hope, cheer, and redemption of Easter. I might just wear nothing but white until Ascension Day. I have also just selected my two “Easter albums” (a new tradition) — The Lone Bellow and Yim Yames’ Tribute To (George Harrison)My affection for the Lone Bellow is well-known, as everything about them is couched in redemption. And as for Yim Yames, well, nothing says it better than “All Things Must Pass.”

So here’s the song. I can’t quite bring myself to share my own version, but here’s a great version. May it move you as it has me, and may we walk with humility and grace through all of life’s trials.


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