rich and me and aidan and bailey.

Today I’m going to tell a part of my story that I’ve never written before – and I don’t know why. It changed so much of my life – and I’ve needed to share it for so long – but I was never able to. 

Until now.

I’m telling it today of all days because it’s intermingled in my mind with Rich Mullins and his last days and album – and September 19th is the 23rd anniversary of his death.

So this is the story of Rich and me – and Aidan and Bailey.

The Summer of 1997

Let me start this story by telling you all that during the Summer of 1997 I was 18 years old and pregnant. With twins.

Yes.

I found out I was pregnant the day of my senior prom, May 9, 1997.

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details right now – but suffice it to say this was a lonely and scary experience – but I was trying my best and caring for myself and doing all the things I was supposed to do. 

I was working at a very nice preschool as well as nannying for a local surgeon and priest, taking care of their precious little boy.

Throughout that summer, I listened to Rich’s Songs and A Liturgy, A Legacy, and A Ragamuffin Band albums on repeat and they were such a comfort.

Rich and his music had been dear to me for years and I had always felt connected to so so many of his songs – and still listen to them all the time. 

Of course, as he – the total outsider hippie man, who took a pass on Nashville to live on a Native American reservation – REALLY chose to live outside the church box, he got it.

His lyrics – and his understanding of scripture and Jesus – resonate deeply with me.

(For some insight into his thoughts, here is a link to his Goodreads author quote page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/139433.Rich_Mullins )

One song, Let Mercy Lead, is written for one of his dear friend/bandmates children, Aidan – and it touched my spirit so significantly that I had chosen Aidan as one of the names for my boys.

Let Mercy Lead

Aidan, you’re young

But, Aidan, you’re growing fast

Me and your mom

And all the love we have

We can only take you so far

As far as we can

But you’ll need something more to guide your heart 

As you grow into a man

Let mercy lead

Let love be the strength in your legs

And in every footprint that you leave

There will be a drop of grace

If we can reach beyond the wisdom of this age

Into the foolishness of God

That foolishness will save

Those who believe

Although their foolish hearts may break

They will find peace

And I’ll meet you in that place where mercy leads.

Aidan, the day, Aidan, the day will come,

You’ll run the race 

That takes us way beyond

All our trials and all our failures

And all the good we dream of

But you can’t see yet where it is you’re heading

But one day you’ll see the face of love

Let mercy lead 

Let love be the strength in your legs

And in every footprint that you leave 

There’ll be a drop of grace

If we can reach

Beyond the wisdom of this age

Into the foolishness of God that foolishness will save

Those who believe 

Although their foolish hearts may break

They’ll find peace

And I’ll meet you in that place where mercy leads.

It was so dear to me (and still is).

August 20th.

On August 20th, everything changed. I was six months pregnant – and just on the edge of viability with my boys when I went into preterm labor and my water broke with “Twin A.” I was admitted to the hospital and I learned that he had passed away but “Twin B” was still doing well at that time and doctors wanted to keep me on bedrest and try to stop labor and let his lungs develop.

I was distraught and scared. I prayed and prayed.

By the next day, I developed a fever of 103 – a clear sign of sepsis. I quickly became critically ill and there was nothing to do but induce labor.

On August 22, 1997, Aidan was stillborn; Bailey took one breath and was with Jesus.

It was completely and utterly devastating.

After that, I remained in the hospital for several days as I was still quite ill myself – and also had to contend with severe anxiety for quite some time from having been so sick and scared and just going through so much.

Nothing could compare to the overwhelming grief though.

Late August And After.

With my church environment – and the shame of being a single mother, I did not get the help I needed in my grief and it was traumatic. At the time, I just didn’t have the wisdom or maturity to know how to ask for the help I needed; I was just a baby myself.

In the immediate aftermath, however, I was in shock I think. A bit dazed. Gutted. Depressed. Just sort of all the things.

I actually saw Rich perform in my town shortly after the twins were born, a blessing indeed, especially with what was to come.

On September 19th, just four weeks after Aidan and Bailey passed away, my Daddy encouraged me to go the YMCA for a walk to try to lift my spirits. As I was walking around the second floor track, I unexpectedly heard on the radio that Rich Mullins had died in a terrible car accident.

I. LOST. IT.

I jumped in my car and flew home, just beside myself, and ran into my Daddy’s arms, inconsolable.

I honestly felt even more abandoned by God.

I just couldn’t understand.

But I kept pushing on – and coping as best I could at the time.

Rich’s Final Album

After a bit of time had passed, word spread that Rich had recorded his “Jesus Record” demo – an album devoted to the person of Jesus – on a handheld recorder in the chapel on the reservation where he lived just a week before he died.

And that it was to be released along with studio versions of the same songs performed by his friends.

Sure enough, it was.

I went to the Baptist Bookstore – well, Lifeway (it never stopped being the Baptist Bookstore to me) – in Homewood and bought it on cassette the day it came out. I immediately put it in the player in my car and hopped back on the interstate.

Within two minutes, I had to steer onto the shoulder of I-65.

It was like he knew.

The first song – stripped down, just his voice and guitar – was everything I was feeling.

And it broke me.

Hard To Get

You who live in Heaven

Hear the prayers of those of us who live on Earth

Who are afraid of being left by those we love

And who get hardened by the hurt

Do you remember when You lived down here that we all scraped

To find the faith to ask for daily bread

Did You forget about us after You had flown away

Well I memorized every word You said

Still, I’m so scared I’m holding my breath

While You’re up there just playing hard to get.

You who live in radiance

Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin

We have a love that’s not as patient as Yours was

Still we do love now and then

Did You ever know loneliness

Did You ever know need

Do You remember just how long a night can get?

When You were barely holding on

And Your friends fall asleep

And don’t see the blood that’s running in Your sweat

Will those who mourn be left uncomforted

While You’re up there just playing hard to get?

And I know You bore our sorrows

And I know You feel our pain

And I know that it would not hurt any less 

Even if it could be explained

And I that I am only lashing out

At the One who loves me most

And after I figured this somehow

All I really need to know

Is if You who live in eternity 

Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time

We can’t see what’s ahead 

And we cannot get free from what we’ve left behind

I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears

All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret

I can’t see how You’re leading me, unless You’ve led me here

Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led

And so You’ve been here all along I guess

It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get.

While that song did encapsulate all of the grief I was feeling, I loved the album as a whole as well. I clung to it during that time.

Rich’s perspective on the person of Jesus continues to speak to my heart in a beautiful way.

The Meaning Of September 19th For Me Now

Every September 19th, I always remember Rich and share a post about him on social media – and, of course, I listen to his music all the time anyway, but I tend to have an “all Rich” day then.

I also watch the documentary Rich Mullins: A Ragamuffin’s Legacy. It’s just nice to remember him in that way as well, through those who knew him best.

This year, watching it, I think something just shifted in me in terms of wanting to share my own story because there is so much talk of Rich not holding anything back in regards to his story – always willing to tell the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In August, I really found myself struggling when the boy’s birthday passed to not write about it – and I couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t. I loved them then, I love them now, I always will. That certainly isn’t the issue. 

I’m not really sure how such an important part of me became a thing I didn’t talk or write about – but I can thank Rich for giving me some clarity to bring that to halt now.

As for sharing him and his music with you, the two songs in this post are just a big part of this story.

There are SO many that are incredible – I am seriously considering doing a weekly series so I can share the songs and the scriptures and stories that go with them. It would bring me so much joy.

For now, if you aren’t familiar with Rich, his Songs One and Two albums are kind of his “Greatest Hits” and are fantastic – but the Jesus Record is SO special as well – and, of course, it came long after those.

I’ll leave you with these song suggestions to get started. I’m not even going to call them my favorites – because I’m not sure I can narrow it down to ten favorites of his. 

I’m just going to say they are ten fabulous songs to check out if you are interested:

  • Hold Me Jesus
  • If I Stand
  • Jacob and the Two Women (The World As Best As I Can Remember It)
  • Brother’s Keeper
  • Peace (A Communion Blessing)
  • Creed
  • Sometimes by Step
  • Nothing Is Beyond You
  • Home
  • Calling Out Your Name

And, an 11th (bonus) song – sorry, y’all, I tried for ten 😉 – Where You Are

Lord, I miss him. ❤

Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Grace and Blessings.

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