This June marks ten years since my father passed away.
My parents split up when I was pretty young. One spring, I was 12 years old, my mother sent us to stay with my father in central Maine for a week during school break. I have a lot of memories from this trip, but the most impressionable one being my introduction to the guitar.
I am told that my dad was an excellent guitar player, and loved music. In fact, music runs deep in the blood of my paternal family. And although music had always fascinated me, this was the first time someone else was excited from my interest.
My dad played a little guitar for me, and then he let me try it. He showed me some of the basic chords such as Em, D, and C. We played a game where I would strum a chord, and him with his back to me, would have to guess what the chord was. He got it right, every single time. I was in awe. I instantly became infatuated with guitar. I didn’t have one of my own, but I was insistent that I wouldn’t forget what he taught me. On the ride home back to Western NH from Maine, I used a pencil and paper to draw out the guitar neck and where my fingers should go on the strings, not even realizing at the time that that’s exactly how chords are written out! I practiced on that pretend guitar neck the whole 5 hour ride back.
For my graduation from 8th grade, my gram gave me her own, beloved guitar. I could be mistaken, but I believe it was one of the first guitars that she herself had ever had! It was an old acoustic/electric Yamaha, from when they made Yamaha well, sometime in the 70s I believe. It was a little beat up, and in less than perfect condition but it was the most treasured gift anyone had given me to that point. And the sound it made was one of the most beautiful I had heard to that point.
All throughout high school and after, my life in some ways revolved around guitar. I took several classes, private lessons, played in various high school garage bands, in churches, in talent shows, and so on. Most of my closest of close friends played guitar, like it was a sticky, gummy, nectar that drew me to them. I brought my guitar to school, sitting in the hallways and playing with my friends as people walked by. I brought it to work, playing in the dining rooms of the various restaurants I worked at, after my shifts ended. I brought it to summer camp, playing around campfire at night or in the cabin in the morning. I brought it on vacations, sleepovers, parties, I brought it everywhere I could.
And then my dad died, unexpectedly. He didn’t wake up one morning.Somehow, my guitar became a sad thing. It’s like I lost my passion and desire, or like I was afraid to play it. In some ways, that guitar is one of the few things that made me feel truly connected to my father.
All the pain I felt from his passing was reflected off my passion for music.
I would try to pick it up here and there, if I saw a nice guitar someone had for example, I would try to play, but it’s like my mind would draw a blank, and my heart just wasn’t in it. So, I just stopped altogether. It was too painful.
Over the last year, my heart has had a shift. Something, like a tiny sprout, began growing inside me. I started thinking about playing again. I felt like my spirit was being prompted, “Go, get a new guitar, one that you can love, and can pick up and be joyful. And start playing again. Stop silencing the song within you.”
Wow. It was scary to think of it! But I began talking about it with some of my close friends, and my husband. This past summer I was really getting ready to buy something, and take it back up, but I just kept pushing it off.
When we moved to Hawaii our financial situation tightened a bit. I found myself longing for the guitar that I hadn’t bought, but didn’t have the money for now. I was craving its smooth wood in my hands, its weight on my shoulder, and its sharp strings at my fingertips.
On Christmas morning, guess what! My husband, whom I had a pact with not to get Christmas gifts for eachother, had a guitar hidden behind the Christmas tree. I saw it almost instantly, but I knew he would want me to be surprised, so as I handed the kids gifts out to them one by one, I ignored what was back there, and played the charade. As the gifts dwindled down to about half, I couldn’t pretend any longer, “Oh! What is this?!” I knew we were a little tight for cash, so I expected it to be a Target guitar or something, and was nervous for my reaction when I opened the case.
He got me this beauty. (He had landed an unexpected side job unbeknownst to me, and when the guy handed him exactly the amount that he had wanted to spend on a guitar for me, he knew it was meant to be!)
It is truly the most beautiful guitar I have ever played.
Fast forward to now: tomorrow evening, I am joining my churches worship team for their practice. With my guitar. It has been so good to pick that thing up and play it. My heart sings every time.
Friends, it’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to put things on hold because we are busy. It’s okay that we don’t do everything we think we were meant for, right this second. But when that still small voice within begins to grow something, don’t ignore it! Don’t push it aside. If you’re too busy, reassess the priorities, even if they are simple things like keeping a perfectly clean kitchen or bathroom. Or being a “perfect” spouse or parent by means of stressful, time consuming tasks.
Embrace that little sprout. Water it. Give it some light. It will grow! And that sprout could be the key to what you’ve been trying to unlock.