On February 15th, 2017, while a majority of American women were buying discount chocolates, a young new mother, Kayla, was mourning the unexpected loss of her fulll-term infant daughter, Hope Violet. Due to complications during labor, precious Hope never got to breathe her first breath in this world, and her mother left the hospital empty-handed.
As a musician, I've played a variety of gigs including bars, restaurants, venue stages, festivals, fundraisers, breweries, sidewalks, weddings, and even funerals. But never have I played for an event as meaningful as the one I was honored to play for yesterday.
This past August, I was finishing up a busy week of performing. My final gig for the week was at a restaurant in Fargo, where I noticed three women, maybe just a couple years older than me, sitting at the bar having a nice time. After I was done playing, one of the girls came up to me. We talked for a few moments and she asked me if I play for events. I was expecting her to ask about a wedding, or maybe a company party. Instead she said, "I have a very odd request, but I was wondering if you'd be willing to play for my daughter's memorial service. I heard you play at the market this morning, and now tonight, and you played the songs and type of music that Hope and I listened to."
After a moment of fighting back tears I extended my condolences and said I would be honored to play.
A couple weeks later we met for coffee, and I learned Hope's story. I couldn't comprehend how Kayla's positive energy was even possible after such loss.
Let me just take a moment to talk about Kayla's giant heart. She lost her baby, and she is now using Hope's story as a platform to help many other loss moms cope. She is working hard to eliminate the stigma around discussing pregnancy and infant loss. Kayla named her daughter after Mission of Hope, an organization that aims to transform the lives of those living in Haiti. She also donated many of Hope's baby items with the letter "H" to baby Haisley Jo, infant daughter of Ashton Matheny and Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind.
Fast-forward to yesterday, October 15, 2017: Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
Kayla hosted a public event at Orchard Glen Park for those affected by pregnancy and infant loss. On the event programs, she had the names of many infants who had passed too soon. She also wrote each of their names on a pumpkin, with a balloon attached to it. In addition, she made plaques for each baby with their photo and name, and each plaque was placed on a branch of a tree. While the event was in honor of Hope, she gave a speech with raw eloquence that beautifully resonated with everyone in the audience.
Regarding the music, here's the songs that Kayla chose:
1. "I Carry Your Heart" - I sang this original song, which I wrote based on e.e. cummings' poem "i carry your heart"
2. "Stars" by Grace Potter. Kayla's friend Justine sang this song beautifully while Kayla spread white and purple flower petals, and some of Hope's ashes at the base of the tree that the city of Fargo planted in memory of Hope.
3. "Nobody Knows" by the Lumineers. I sang this song during the balloon release, and it was the single-most perfect moment I have ever been a part of.
When the service was over, I packed up my gear and went home. It was just like any other day, except now I will always be able to put a little more Hope into everything I do and say.