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Drink Deep: A Musical Journey through Grief

Introducing Steve Siler

I’m not even sure how we met, but it’s been a few years now. I’m so glad to call him a friend. I admire Steve’s heart of compassion and endless drive to help those who are hurting. His faith and hard work bring so much healing to many people who are going through difficult times. I hope you enjoy getting to know Steve as much I have!

Todd Nigro
Founder of Ellie’s Way


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Drink Deep: A Musical Journey through Grief
by Steve Siler, Director: Music for the Soul

“When someone is in pain, reading is difficult. Their eyes move across the page but they can’t really process what they are reading. That’s why music is so great. A person can just lie back and let the music wash over them.”

As soon as Dr. Doris Sanford, a therapist and author of several books on emotional pain, told me that, I began to think about a doing a musical project for grief.

Not long after, in 1997, my wife’s father passed quite unexpectedly. It was then that a friend of mine and I created a recording of songs called Dancing with Angels. The idea for the title song had come from my wife telling me that on the plane flight heading to her father’s funeral she had looked out the window and imagined him free and dancing on the clouds.

When I founded the ministry Music for the Soul four years later it was my intention to revisit the topic of grief as one of our first projects. While I had been pleased with some of the previous recording I felt like there were some important pieces missing.

Well, as happens in ministry, God had other plans and we wound doing ten other projects before finally getting the opportunity to do something for grief. It was prompted when a woman who had lost her daughter to breast cancer put a copy of her book in my hands. The book was called “God is Good, Cancer Stinks, God is with Us!” The themes in the book tugged at my heart. Many of the phrases in the text seemed to leap off the page.

Before long lyric ideas were starting to come. But I didn’t want to race through the project. I wanted to really sit with it and make sure that we covered grief from a variety of perspectives. I wanted there to be something on the project for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one, no matter the circumstances.

With that in mind I called Scott Krippayne and Tony Wood. The three of us had written five full albums together and I felt like the special relationship we’d developed over the years would allow us to go to the deep, vulnerable places we would need to go to do the project justice. I proposed that we do a retreat, away from all that might distract us, so that we could focus in on the work.

Though all of us had experiences with grief, Scott’s was by far the most recent, his mother-in-law having just lost her battle with cancer.

In preparation for the retreat I reached out to several of my professional therapist contacts for suggestions on the themes we should be sure to include. The retreat itself was full of healing tears as we delved deeply into the topic. The result of our time away was a fourteen song project called Drink Deep.

Since grief is such a personal and private thing I felt like a very intimate approach to recording the songs was necessary. I decided, rather than having a different singer for every song to have just two – one woman and one man. I wanted listeners to feel like two caring friends were guiding them in the process.

My dear friend Nita Whitaker had just lost her husband. Already an incredibly emotive singer, I thought she would be able to infuse the songs with her own wounded heart in a way that would truly connect with listeners. Scott Krippayne is a marvelous singer himself and he was the obvious choice for the male vocals.

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Nita Whitaker, female vocalist, Drink Deep

To maintain that intimate feeling I wanted the music to feel like it could have been played in the listener’s living room, so I chose a small combo approach – a piano, an upright bass, and a brush drum kit to perform the music, occasionally adding a gut string guitar or a string quartet.

The result is something that comes a cross as up close and personal.

As I said earlier, I had intended to do this project years earlier. Little did I know that God would use the timing of Drink Deep to minister to me. My own mother passed away while we were finishing the recording.

The response to the project has been a blessing. A small sampling from five listeners:

I felt like every song was written just for me. I loved the way that each song took me through different stages of grief.

The songs are like a conversation between friends—just a simple description of feelings and emotions. They aren’t even like typical lyrics—just such “raw” emotional statements—language we can understand from our “guts”.

I lead a Grief Share group. When I listened to all the songs. I thought, “This is what I hear the people say! Everything!!”

When I found this CD I was four and half years into my journey with grief and it helped me so much. I feel at times we all reach those grief blocks where you need something to help you feel. Drink Deep has done that.

The songs identify with my innermost feelings and make me feel like I must not be the only one with those feelings.

These were the kinds of responses we had hoped we would receive. We want people to know they are not alone. We want people to know someone understands.

In a sense now I understand that at some level all of the Music for the Soul projects are about grief. Perhaps the loss we are grieving is our good health. More Beautiful (breast cancer), Dignity (caregiving), and Whole in the Sight of God (special needs) all touch on this kind of loss.

Perhaps it’s loss from the change in a relationship (Fifty Years from Now) or the loss that comes with a catastrophic event in one’s life. (After the Storm).

And then there are the losses that can come from addiction or struggles with behavior resulting from trauma. (Somebody’s Daughter: A Journey to Freedom from Pornography and Tell Me What You See: Hope for Those with Eating Disorders).

Our newest project Mercy Great Enough dealing with healing from the pain of an abortion in one’s past, is a particularly complicated kind of grief. As is dealing with the suicide of a loved one. (Chaos of the Heart).

In every case, something that was previously in balance has become out of balance. And that represents loss.

When we’re in pain we build walls to shield ourselves from deep pain, guilt, and shame. Music seeps through the cracks in those walls and opens the heart so that the listener can receive a message of hope and healing.

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Writers and Producer
Tony Wood, Scott Krippayne, Steve Siler, and Kent Hooper

The reason music can be so helpful in this is because of the way are brains are wired. Language is processed primarily in the left hemisphere of the brain and melody is processed in the right. A song connects the two, engaging the whole brain! We more commonly think of this as “mind and heart.”

As it turns out, trauma is also stored in the right hemisphere of the brain. That’s what makes a song extraordinarily powerful in addressing emotional pain. Additionally, melody and rhythm are powerful memory devices. Singing a message of hope and healing increases the likelihood it will be remembered.

If you are experiencing grief in the aftermath of a loss I invite you to visit Music for the Soul: Drink Deep.

I hope that our songs will help lift the dark clouds of sorrow and pain to bring you comfort, hope, and healing.

Drink Deep and all of the resources mentioned above are available at www.musicforthesoul.org

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Andy the Angel

NursesWeek

This week is National Nurses Week 2015. Thank a nurse and share a story about how a nurse has impacted your life with love and compassion. To all the nurses out there – your efforts are not forgotten and you are appreciated. Thank you for what you do every day!

 

Andy the Angel

by Todd Nigro

As we drove behind the ambulance, I was so afraid. We tried to be as positive as we could. We had been to the emergency room for other injuries and it always worked out. I convinced myself our six-year-old Ellie would be okay and home soon. I wanted to believe that modern medicine could find a way to make everything better.

We arrived and were ushered into a private waiting room. A minister came into the room and offered us a prayer. We just sat there shaking and waiting. We were told that there were specialists on duty and they were doing everything possible for our little girl. I began to have some hope because she was in good hands. We were going to work through this and everything would be fine. That’s the way my life worked. Problems were faced and solved.

There was a knock at the door and a doctor walked in. I was hoping for some complicated explanation about how they had worked their medical magic. The doctor sat down in front of us. With compassionate eyes and voice he said, “I’m sorry, Ellie is dead.” I can still hear his words. We just screamed a dreadful and painful “No….No….No!” I can’t remember what I thought. All of sudden, I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know how to feel. I was in pain and shock. I was dazed and felt helpless.

Time stood still. After ten minutes or so, a nurse knocked on the door and said they had prepared Ellie for us to see her. We wanted to see our sweetie. It was so scary. I had never been to a funeral in my life. I had never lost a person close to me. I was a 42-year-old man facing death for the first time in my life and it was my daughter. I held my wife’s hand as we stumbled into the back room. The curtain was pulled and pushed aside and there she was.

Oh, my little angel. My girl. My sweet, adorable, loving child was on the table looking like she was just sleeping. It didn’t seem like anything was wrong with her. I watched my wife weep in agony. My two girls were close to me, one was dead, and the other in an inconsolable state of utter despair.

After some time, my wife wanted to call her family and I found myself alone with Ellie. I moved in close and kissed her and held her sweet little hand and just lost it. I cried so hard and so deeply that it just broke my heart. My baby was gone it hurt more than I could ever describe. This was the ultimate low point in my life. The loss of Ellie was not real, was it? This was just a nightmare.

Then, right when I needed it, I noticed a hand on my back. It felt so soothing and comforting. It wasn’t too hard or too soft. It was exactly what I needed to get through my pain in that moment. After I had regained some composure, I looked to my side and there was a gentleman with a stubbly beard next to me. He didn’t say anything, but his hand said it all. It was on my back and it meant the world to me. I said “you sure do have a tough job”, and he just replied that it was difficult at times and he let me be in the moment with my daughter. I felt the hand of God through that nurse’s hand. I was comforted and not alone in my moments of deep anguish.

That hand belonged to Andy Steele. I thank him from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget him and that moment. Andy and I have kept in touch. We went through something together that bonds you forever. I thank God for nurses who show compassion and love when people are in such pain.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

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Todd and Andy

 

About Andy

Andy Steele was the Director of the Piedmont-Fayette Emergency Room prior to his transition in July 2014 to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan, GA, where he is the Quality of Life Director.

“Being a nurse has definitely presented me with many challenges that I never imagined I would experience in my life, however, I do hope that my profession allows me to share God’s love and comfort that only He can provide during difficult times like this.” – Andy Steele

 

About Todd

Todd Nigro started Ellie’s Way, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, after losing his daughter Ellie in January 2012. He has developed a passion for helping families navigate the valley of grief after a tragic loss. Ellie’s Way sends care packages to those grieving the loss of a loved one throughout the country and provides resources through www.ElliesWay.org. He is a facilitator of a GriefShare support group at Dogwood Church.

“Ellie’s Way has given me a positive outlet for my grief journey. The steps that I take now are full of purpose and satisfaction. God’s love has transformed my life through our terrible tragedy.” – Todd Nigro


top image by: martan via Shutterstock

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Sparks of Kindness

Debbie McFarland has started something that we wanted to share with you. She has so much energy and a huge heart for serving others. Please check out her story and consider joining her amazing group on Facebook, Sparks of Kindness.


One spark of kindness can ignite a wildfire!

I feel that I have a fire inside of me to motivate others to be kind and help one another. I believe that God has given me this desire to show people how easy it is to be kind. Most of us do kind things often, but I am talking about deliberately searching for ways to be kind and they can be so simple. I did this previously as a temporary event during Lent and Advent. So many lives were touched and I was asked to make it a permanent thing. I kept feeling called to do this. I believe that this idea can change lives. I have seen it happen.

Debbie
Debbie McFarland

 

One spark of kindness can ignite a wildfire! Sparks of Kindness is a movement, a new way of thinking that spreads smiles with random acts of kindness. I started Sparks of Kindness because I wanted to make a change. I felt like there are so many people who want to make the world a kinder, better place for us and for our children, but they just didn’t know where to start. I thought it could start with a simple Spark.

Our world has become so distant and people hunger for human contact. We talk about how this world has become so crazy and violent. We agree that people spend too much time with technology and that people don’t know how to communicate with each other anymore. We shop and bank online. We send texts and Facebook messages in lieu of birthday or sympathy cards. Gone are the days when you knew your butcher, your neighbor, and the bank teller. The news has become so horrifying to watch that we turn our heads, realizing that there is nothing we can do to change this world. It’s just sad. The media gravitates towards and spotlights on the “craziness” of our world – the mistakes people make, the violence, the hatred. I feel like we have become a complacent society, believing that this is just the way it is. We believe that it is just a sad situation and we can’t do anything about it, but I believe that is a lie that we have been living. It starts with a spark. A spark of desire within each of us. A desire to WANT this world to be a better place. It is very simple.

 

There is a Facebook Group where motivational words are written and stories/pictures of serving are shared. Everything is positive with ways to make a difference and change our world. It starts with a simple Spark. It can be leaving a quarter with a card on the gumball machine, buying dinner for a stranger, or giving furniture to a family whose house burned down. The result is a different way of looking at things. People spend their day searching for ways to Spark someone, to make someone else smile. No longer worrying about their own problems, they can see the good in others and want to brighten their day. No rewards or thanks are necessary, just knowing that we are helping make a difference in someone’s life for a moment or lifetime.

Each person we encounter is going through a struggle and if we can give them just a spark of hope, they can continue the battle with a little spark in their step. They feel better knowing that someone cares. The cards and the positive people in the group then encourage them to Spark someone else and it spreads. I have been contacted by countless people who said that the Spark they received came at a time when they had given up hope and it made them realize that “there still are good people in this world” and that they are not alone. The world seems just a little smaller…and kinder.

 

My inspiration comes from above and I believe was planted within me from a young age. This is the kind of thing that I always felt called to do. I grew up very poor but didn’t realize it because my sister and I had an abundance of love from my mother. She taught us that even if you don’t have anything to give, you can give of yourself. We went to nursing homes and homeless shelters. I hope that our 6 children can go out into the world and give of themselves, like I was taught.

My dream for the Sparks of Kindness is that it will spread as far and wide as possible. I hope people will see that it really is easy to make a big difference. It only takes a Spark to ignite a wildfire.

Debbie McFarland
Peachtree City, GA

Click Sparks of Kindness to join us!

In just 6 weeks, I believe many miracles have happened. You have to watch the video to believe it!


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