Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets
Last night my friend and I went to see Mary Chapin Carpenter. We’re big fans – so we see her whenever she tours Chicago. As always, it was a great concert. The music was perfect. She looked beautiful. Her presence befit someone who has been ‘playing out’ for a few decades.
The last encore song she was on stage alone with her acoustic guitar. As she strummed she talked of Steve Jobs recent death. How she loved the part in his Stanford commencement speech about how you should wake up every morning happy about the day about to unfold – that if you’re not happy about it for a few days running you need to make some changes. She said how happy she was – she gets to wake up and play her guitar every day, and on really happy days she gets to play for audiences like us.
She then said she wanted to thank her Dad for her career. Because it was her dad who pushed her out of the safety of her room and told her to go play out at an open mic. It was due to his encouragement that she was a performer.
Then she simply said “and yesterday my Dad died”. The audience gasped. She said he wanted her to be out – to keep on going. We all rose to our feet, me (and I suspect many others), crying all the while, and we clapped and clapped and clapped.
Then I put together how throughout the night amidst her very ‘in charge’ stage presence she had left a trail of bread-crumbs of vulnerability. She had mentioned that the last few years were hard ones – and that she was single. I knew of health issues. So I assumed the undercurrent of sadness or wistfulness was about that.
The song she played to honor her dad was about her love of solitude. About how it’s a bit scary for her actually, in a room full of people. I didn’t put it together until this morning that the lyrics of her song and touring in a big bus don’t necessarily go together, but as Bob Dylan says she “keeps on keepin’ on.”
I thought too, of a close friend whose young partner died this past winter. They had been together for over a decade, they were in their 40s, they were happy. They were busy. Making plans. Having parties. Working. Playing music. Then suddenly one of them had cancer and 111 days later she was dead. I’ve watched my surviving friend have the courage to keep on. To get up, go to work, live in the house they shared, care for their many animals, do the things they used to do together – now, abruptly on her own.
Or my Dad, who did all a human can do to keep another human alive and then my Mom died anyway (14 years ago yesterday, as it turns out). My parents married when my Mom was 21, my dad just 20. His parents had to sign for him to get married. If he had dated much before Mom, I would be surprised. They were married 54 years when she died. When he gave a thank you talk at Mom’s funeral lunch – stood up and gave a tribute to Mom and thanked everyone for coming – with power and authority I thought “wow, my childhood belief was right – my Dad IS Superman.” Courage. The willingness to keep on.
The two phrases that come to mind for me for this courage come from writers: Samuel Beckett wrote a play called “I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On”; in “Tangled Up in Blue” Bob Dylan wrote “The only thing he knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on.”
And just as surely as spring follows winter, joy can follow sorrow if we are bold enough to not only ‘keep on keepin’ on’ but also to ‘listen to your heart and what your heart might say’.
Dad remarried a wonderful woman – they’ve been together for nearly 13 years now. And while you can’t replace a parent (I know), I believe Mary Chapin Carpenter will continue to reap the effects of her father’s love for her, and hers for him. I think having the kind of incredible courage and dignity she showed last night creates a luge-track for grace to rush in.
I’m going to send her a card – sympathy yes, but gratitude too. If you’re a fan (of her music, of beauty, of grace under pressure) maybe you will want to, too. The only address I could come up with comes from her website – for her booking agent, but that will have to do:
Mary Chapin Carpenter
% Monterey Peninsula Artists
509 Hartnell Street
Monterey, CA 93940
And today I give thanks for three incredible examples of courage: my Dad, my friend Annemarie, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. May your courage, dignity and grace be rewarded with an abundance of comfort, joy and love.