By some strange accident of fate, David, Alex and I found ourselves high above Manhattan in a small jazz club that looked out over sparkling lights and the city on a frosty winter’s eve. We were there to hear a small jazz quartet led by Jimmy Greene, a gifted saxophonist, teacher, and composer. He is also the father of Ana, a beautiful six-year old who lost her life at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown.
The event we attended wasn’t just a musical performance by Jimmy and the other members of his quartet. It was also a tribute to his daughter Ana’s life and spirit. During the program he and his fellow musicians played several songs featured on a CD he created for and about Ana called “Beautiful Life” which in Jimmy’s words, “attempts to paint a picture of how she lived — lovingly, faithfully, and joyfully.”
“Beautiful Life” includes the work of many artists who came together to support Jimmy Greene and his family — and to help him share his abiding love for his daughter. Ana is heard on the album along with some of her friends. Some of the proceeds of the recording will go to several charities in her honor.
Listening to Jimmy Greene speak about his daughter through words and music was a joyful experience shadowed with sorrow. And reading the story of Ana’s brief life and the path Jimmy Greene took as he took unspeakable pain and transformed it into beauty and uplifting music made me feel more deeply than ever how important it is for us to speak our sorrows.
When we give voice to our sorrows through words and stories, through songs and music, and other forms of art, we give ourselves hope and give others hope as well. We reach past our own pain to let others know that their pain isn’t a solitary burden, but one we all share and carry, though we each do so in our own way and for many different reasons.
This, to me, is one of the greatest gifts of words and writing. As C.S. Lewis once said, “We read to know we’re not alone.” When we write, whether it’s a story or a beautiful tribute to a beloved daughter, we send a message out into the world and we never know where that message will be carried or what lives it will touch. Jimmy Greene touched me with his music, but also with his words. He ended the note on his album cover with two simple but powerful words: “Love wins.” Write on.