sand and water

“I will see you in the light of a thousand suns… and I will hear you in the sound of the waves
…Solid stone is just sand and water baby… sand and water and a million years gone by.”

Joey’s family came here to Tennessee last weekend. Her mama and daddy and three sisters. Friday would have been Joey’s 41st birthday and though most of them hadn’t been here since the funeral, they wanted to come be with us. With her. I can only imagine all the feelings that they must’ve been feeling on the drive down here. Excited to see the baby that carries the lifeblood and love of their loved one, but nervous to awaken the pain that they, like me, have been learning to live with these past few months.

Indy was taking a nap when they first arrived and so we all found chairs on the back porch and sat and talked together for a long time... reminiscing about the farmhouse and all the beautiful life that Joey had brought to it. An hour later Indy was up and in her grandma’s arms...


It was as if no time had passed at all between the two of them and the deep love and connection they felt and shared together during those months we spent in Indiana came pouring back in an instant. Indy stayed in June’s arms for a long, long time and the tears fell from our eyes as we listened to Joey’s mama softly singing hymns to Indy, just as Joey had always done when she was here.

Soon the baby was passed from lap to lap and aunt to aunt... from Jody to Julie to Jessie. Their hearts and arms filled with what they’d come to back to Tennessee to honor. Joey.

An hour before, Joey’s daddy had parked his truck in the driveway and headed straight out to the cemetery. He’d said hello to us, but we all knew where he wanted he wanted to be. Where he needed to be. With his little girl.

So we all let him have his time. Then with the sleep now out of Indy’s eyes, the rest of us all walked through the back field together and joined Jack in the grass in front of the simple wooden cross with my wife’s name on it. Again talking and remembering Joey and the gift that she was and is to all of us. We told stories and laughed and felt strangely closer to her, just by being closer to each other..


In the early evening, we grilled steaks out on the back porch and filled our plates with vegetables from the freezer that Joey had put-up in years past. And then as the sun began to set, we all took our chairs into the back field and together, we made one of my most favorite memories of all time. A few neighbors and their children joined us as we lit lanterns for Joey and sent them high up into the sky as the sun disappeared behind the grove of trees where Joey is buried.

It wasn’t just beautiful... it was magic...

On Monday, it was grandparents' day at High Hopes and so all of Joey’s family came with me to drop her off that morning and take a tour of Indy’s school and meet her teachers and friends. Joey’s mama and daddy loved the school so much and could see why Indy loves being there...


They got to help Indy make a frame that will be a keepsake and one day soon, hold a photo of them together...


While they worked on their frame, Joey’s sister, and I helped Indy’s little friend Celia make one for her grandma and grandpa...


Then later that evening, we all went to a private premiere of my documentary, To Joey, With Love, at the Franklin Theater, a small historic movie house in downtown Franklin, not too far from Indy’s school. It was the first time to share the movie with anyone and so the theater was filled with lots of close friends and family and others who have worked on or are part of making the film happen...


It was another magical evening...


Before the film started, Indy and I got up on stage and said a few words. And Mike Rosser, the pastor who married Joey and me back in 2002, led the theater in a prayer...


Joey’s midwife Pamela and I shared a few moments together before the film started. Remembering Indy’s birth and how much Joey loved being her mama...


Then I found a seat in the balcony next to Joey’s family and our two older daughters Heidi and Hopie and let myself get lost in the story of our lives over the past two and a half years.

Yes, there were tears. Lots of them. From all of us. But there was also a lot of joy and laughter. In the film, just like in real life... the pain we experienced in one moment was balanced by the joy we felt in another. The loss of one life was somehow balanced by the gift of another...


It was incredible to see Joey’s movie on the big screen. To watch my wife’s story come to life in the same place that she and I had watched movies together in the past. I found myself thinking about how most movies cost a lot of money to make. And how this one cost nothing.

Nothing that is... except everything.


It’s hard to believe that it comes out in theaters around the country in just a few days. More than 750 theaters will be showing it I’m told. What a blessing.

Everywhere I go, I meet people who ask me how to get tickets and where they can see the movie. So, it might be best for me to share what I know. If you’d like to see the film, it’s going to be playing for two-nights only. This Tuesday, September 20th. And again on Thursday, October 6th. To find out more about where it’s playing and how to get tickets, there’s a website that our friends at Provident Films have put together… where you can put in your zip code and see where the closest theater to you is showing it and get your tickets in advance. Or of course, you can just show up and get tickets at the theaters on one of the nights that the film is playing.

It’s been a few days now since the movie premiere and I’ve had some time to think about that night and the incredible weekend we spent with Joey’s family. We made some memories together that will last a lifetime and recalled some others that unfortunately, span one. I’m so thankful that they came and spent a few days with us and am looking forward to taking Indy back to Indiana to spend time with them later next month.

PS – The song I used in the ‘lantern’ video above is called “Sand and Water.“ It’s written and sang by Beth Nielson Chapman. She’s a singer/songwriter that I don’t know well, but I know her song very well. I’ve listen to it a thousand times over the last ten years or so. Beth wrote it about losing her husband Ernest to cancer and raising their son alone without him. I’ve always loved this song and felt connected to it. I don’t know why. When I listened to it in the past, I hurt for her. For them. But now of course, it’s different. I feel Beth’s pain and understand her words on a personal level. The tears she cried when she wrote and lived the song are now mine.
Thank you Beth. I hope you don’t mind me using your song.
367 views0 comments

leave a comment