Monthly Archives: December 2012

Daniel Barden, 7

Last Friday, tragedy struck a small town in Connecticut.  A troubled young man ravaged an elementary school with guns, killing 26 people. Twenty of the victims were children, all between the ages of 6 and 7 years old.

I was heading up to my hotel room in Houston, Texas, when I saw the news splayed across multiple television screens.

My initial reaction was shock.

Another one?

Yet, I carried on about my day.  The band had been invited to a private tour of NASA at the Johnson Space Center and Neutral Buoyancy Lab. I needed to geek out on spaceships for a minute, so I posted silly pictures of me posing in an astronaut’s helmet; holding hands with a diving dummy; and with Brian Setzer and (half) his Orchestra behind Apollo Mission Control desks.

After a fulfilling tour and good Tex-Mex dinner, I returned to my hotel room.  I flopped onto the hard bed and flipped on the television. Every news channel was laden with the day’s tragedy.  Still, not much information was known, but the media coverage was almost too much to bear.  I felt guilty my day had been uneventful; just fun and silly.

On a deeper level, I felt a bit selfish that my new life is going so well, and others are enduring so much pain.  I would never assume my experience with pain and loss is anywhere near the depth of losing a child, but I know well the crevasses along the journey of grief.

Suddenly, I wanted to ignore it all.  It was too heavy. I changed the channel, and somewhere between the ending of The Lord of the Rings and the beginning of Die Hard, I fell asleep.

The next morning, I trudged down to breakfast.  My driver, Steve, was just finishing his meal. Steve is a good, solid man who fiercely loves God, his wife, and his children. He is also a successful tour manager, fellow musician and friend.

He sat quietly. I plopped down my grits and coffee next to a saxophone player, and invited Steve to join us.

We all began to talk about our day off, and quickly learned Steve’s best friend had lost his 7-year old son, Daniel, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Daniel Barden

Daniel Barden

Suddenly, the media-heavy tragedy really hit home. It felt as if someone had punched us all, squarely, in the gut, heart and face.

Feelings of guilt welled up inside of me once again.  I had no words of wisdom; no profundity to share.  Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.  At the same time, therein lay an opportunity to help: to support the support of a family who is searching for answers; who needs comfort and peace.

Tears were present in Steve’s kind, blue eyes as he talked about his best friend’s family.

“They are as precious as you will find,” he smiled, mournfully, as he stared into his coffee cup. “It’s killing me to be away from them. I can’t even imagine what they are dealing with right now.”

He continued.

“As we were crying together over the phone last night, [my friend] didn’t mention ‘stricter gun laws’ or ‘gun possession should be a felony’, but rather, ‘how could someone do this?  How do we go on?’”

All politics aside, in the wake of such senseless tragedy, how do we go on?

I don’t know. But God does.

Everyone’s journey of grief is different, but at some point in the process, we all have a choice.  We either turn to the Father, or we turn away from Him.

I, for one, cannot do life without Him. It is my fervent prayer that we all turn to Him.


Long after the saxophone player left his tip on the breakfast table, Steve and I still sat.  He described how happy and spirited Daniel was, recalled how his parents first met, and detailed how Daniel and his older siblings were — and are — the light of their parents’ lives. Steve then showed me a picture.  It was of Daniel, posing playfully with his older brother and sister on the beach.  His smile instantly indicated he was full of life, pure joy, and missing his two bottom teeth.

I pushed aside my half-eaten grits and allowed my eyes to well up with tears.

And then, Steve perked up.

“It’s so awesome to picture little Daniel’s face glowing as he sits on the Father’s lap,” his deep, blue eyes twinkled. “God is good.”

And, for an all-too brief moment, we were quiet. Comforted.  Grateful for the glimpse of joy in a sea of sorrow; grateful for hope.

There is always hope. God is always good.  May we find comfort and peace in the loving arms of our Creator.

Daniel Barden has.


Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” ~Matthew 19:14

Additional close friends of the Barden family have set up a fund to help them in their time of grief.  If you are able, financial donations are appreciated and welcomed.  Please pray often for this family — and all the families — who have lost their precious loved ones.

Tagged , , ,

On the Road Again, Part Three

Two songs in, beads of sweat have already formed on my brow.  I’ve not done much singing yet, just movement.  Soon, my bouncy, curly hair will become wet and stringy, my feet will go numb in their 4” designer heels and the perspiration will overtake my face, neck and chest, but I don’t care.  The energy onstage is pulsating; the excitement from the crowd, intoxicating.

There isn’t much time to mop up the sweat, or gulp sips of water. Brian has his Vixens on stage for all but three songs in the entire show.  He features us vocally in two separate solos, and invites us to join the trio set to spread a little “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Blue Christmas” cheer.  (Never mind that last paradox.)

When it’s time to “Rock This Town”,  the entire venue is on their feet, screaming, clapping, dancing and cheering.  It takes hours to come down from such a high.  My ears ring a bit and my face hurts from grinning, but every night on stage is worth it.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.


A few days ago, we had a show in Peoria, Illinois.  We drove overnight from Nashville, and arrived in Peoria around 8 in the morning.  I stirred from my cozy bunk on the bus and dragged my luggage to my hotel room.  Outside, the weather slowly warmed from a brisk 19 to a tolerable 34 degrees.  The sun was shining happily and the sky illuminated a deep, clear blue.

I decided to take a walk.  The last time I had been in such a small town in Illinois was in 2009.


I distinctly remember the toy trains in our hotel lobby, slowly chugging their way through overgrown, overly lit Christmas wreaths and past an astounding assortment of Nutcracker and ballerina figurines.

A single, fake daisy was glued into the bottom of a red, bulbous vase and placed atop every three-legged continental breakfast table.  The lone cereal dispenser was surprisingly low on Cheerios and high on Frosted Flakes.

I ventured outside to see what else Aurora had to offer.  The sky was dismally grey and there was cold, hard snow on the ground. My boots, although warmly lined, had a small heel on them, so I slipped across the ice on my way towards the Fox River.


The Fox River, Aurora, Illinois.

When I reached the bridge, I stopped for a moment, and noticed something moving in the icy water.


I stared at the birds in horror.  First of all, I know nothing about ducks or their migratory patterns, but something didn’t seem right.

What the quack are these ducks doing, swimming through the ice? Why didn’t they fly south? How will they find food?  It’s too cold for them to be out here. How will they survive?

I was so concerned for the ducks, I felt I should find the nearest convenience store, buy a loaf of bread, and feed them. But all that was in the vicinity of the poor mallards was a shoe repair shop, and a flashy casino filled with smoking gamblers, dragging their oxygen tanks from slot machine to slot machine.

So I stood, frozen, on that bridge.  Helpless.  Helpless to help the ducks.

Gentle snowflakes began to fall, and I started to cry.

I cried for the ducks and their unknown fate.  I cried for their struggle with life in the frozen wintertime.  I cried at not being able to help them.  Additionally, I was slightly angry with them for not having gotten away when they had the chance.  They were stuck in the ice and snow, until spring awakened warmth and new life.

The snow started to flurry harder and I shivered in my thin, wool coat.  Dejected, I turned and walked back to the hotel, wiping away tears.  I said a prayer for the birds and hoped they’d make it.

I wanted out of Illinois as soon as possible.


Peoria, 2012:  As I approached the riverfront, the whipping wind took me by surprise.  At the same time, the sun warmed my face and the crisp air felt refreshing.


Peoria, Illinois. December 10, 2012.

I gazed out at the river. No ducks. Instead, a lone seagull flew overhead.

I chuckled a bit at the memory of the ducks in Aurora.  In my desperate and compassionate concern for them, I couldn’t see they were surviving the season in their lives that day.  They might have been cold, but they were swimming. They were surviving. There was nothing else they could do, but keep on.

Winter doesn’t last forever. Seasonal days aren’t always harsh and grey.  Sometimes they can be warm and gentle. I think even the ducks know this.

And the most beautiful thing of all: spring is coming.