"Take Her Easy" is A Grief in Process
Today I am releasing my latest song, Take Her Easy.
Unlike my other tracks, Take Her Easy is free. You can get it right here, right now.
The song is also available now to stream on all major platforms – Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Play, Amazon, Youtube, etc.
Take Her Easy is perhaps my most personal song to date, so I want to tell you the story behind it.
Cheryl Muth, my good friend and mentor, was struck by a car in the fall. She suffered brain damage and was kept on life support for several days while we read updates from afar. I ricocheted between hope for her recovery and despair at the possibility of losing a beautiful life too soon. I watched as people seemed to paper over the despair with a “Christian hope” that I was unable to grasp.
In the face of great pain and loss, the faith I grew up went limp. Facebook comments projecting that faith as a cure-all panacea only made my lack of belief more painful. Shameful, even.
Wasn’t I supposed to believe everything would be OK? That “God is in control”?
“Supposed to” ceased to matter.
A new message was posted saying that an MRI was underway and the results would determine Cheryl’s future. I tried to join the hopeful and their repeated declarations of faith. I succeeded only in spurts.
Finally, the word came that the damage to Cheryl’s left brain was severe and irreversible. She would be taken off of life support. We were going to lose her.
I posted a tribute to Cheryl shortly after she passed.
In my darkest, most desperate moments, prayer is often out of reach. Instead, I sing.
Songs have pulled me up and out time and time again. Some songs, like Take Her Easy have not offered a way out but instead an empathetic shoulder. I wrote this song for myself and for those closest to Cheryl, especially her husband Darrell, also a close friend of mine.
Cheryl and Darrell pastored a church that formed me through my mid-twenties and thirties. They introduced me to a God who makes room for doubts and questions. They showed me what patience, wisdom, compassion and humour look like in leadership. I know they mean a great deal to many of you reading this too.
“If you’re gonna take her, take her easy – and take my hand”
This is my heart crying out to the God who is and is not.
I wrote the song for me, and for Darrell. It was too painful to share at first, but when Darrell asked me to sing at Cheryl’s Celebration of Life service, I knew the song was bigger than my pain. I knew it could carve out a space in time for all of us feeling more loss than hope. I know those spaces matter.
I played the song for Darrell and he confirmed that I should share it. He’s always been generous in that way.
I played the song at the Celebration of Life on October 28 and it resonated. I was reminded of what a song can do. You can watch that performance here (starts at about 30 minutes in).
I’m releasing this single for free in hopes that it continues to resonate with people and make space for grief. I ask that you would help me share it because grief continues.
Since Cheryl passed, another young artist friend has died. She was just 41 and her death marked the end of a long painful battle with cancer. She leaves her husband and children behind.
“I can’t make sense of what don’t make sense. It’s like I don’t know who you are anymore”
I’ve lost the need to reconcile every horrible moment with a divine plan. I’m still not sure what that means theologically, but it’s telling that every word of this song – even the faithless – are sung to that same God I struggle to understand.
There’s a story behind the introduction to Take Her Easy.
The moment I read Cheryl had died, I was at work. I told my coworker because I had no one else to tell. Emotion hadn’t risen yet. I was blank. Then my Spotify playlist began the song “Crack The Case” by Dawes. That song begins with a beautiful instrumental introduction that cracked my heart wide open. I welled up and had to leave.
I went for a walk to who-knows-where and ended up in the vast dark silence of a hundred-year-old church sanctuary. I sat and I wept until my shoulders shook. I wept for the loss and the nonsense of it all. I wept for the way time moves forward in one direction with no hope of return. I looked up through my tears and saw the vast emptiness at the front of that sanctuary and I somehow felt the pain of all those who were feeling this loss – the pain of all of us – gathering above the altar. And somehow I knew God was there, in that pain. Feeling that pain.
I learned that that hope can find us even in the absence of platitudes and a way forward. Hope can find us while it stays dark.
I wrote more about this experience in my blog post, “A Cloud of Sacred Pain”
When it came time to record Take Her Easy I wanted to begin the track with a sense of all the potential a life as creative and loving as Cheryl’s carries. I wanted to pay homage to the Dawes song that broke me open.
Finally, I want to tell you about the cover artwork.
Some of my best memories with Cheryl are the moments we spent in the New Mexican desert, looking for the landscapes that drew Georgia O’Keefe. Cheryl had a landscape painter’s eye and we wound up in front of one of the most beautiful rock formations I’ve ever seen, right at the ‘golden hour’ – that perfect time of life where everything takes on a dreamlike hue. The sun was setting, and as it ducked behind the peak of this rock, it spilled golden over the rim in an overflow of glory and beauty.
This is not a picture of Cheryl, but a picture of what we witnessed together. A picture of the way Cheryl illuminated the world for those around her.
This release is my tribute to Cheryl Muth, and to those still struggling to make sense of this world without her in it.
If this song makes its way into your own heart, please let me know.