Tapping Tapestry… December 31, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

John Candy died. It rattled my soul to its depths.

It wasn’t just because I enjoyed his work or relished his comedic wit. More importantly, he was just about my size and my age. It made me think about my own mortality–especially when a mere two months later, I fell ill. I had been sick before–you know, where you cough, blow your nose, recover from a sprained ankle or have a headache that goes away with a few aspirin and a good night’s sleep.

This was different. This was a sickness that grabbed onto me and wouldn’t let go. It not only infested my body with pain and discomfort, but sent shock warnings through my mind of the seriousness of the situation. I tried to ignore it; I attempted to medicate it. I even tried to exercise it away. It got worse. There was a sense of ill will throughout every member of my faculties. Finally I relented to go to the doctor. I was immediately placed in the hospital, where I stayed for three days as they tested me, but failing to discover precisely what the problem was.

Meanwhile, one of my sons decided to brighten up my room by bringing in a Christmas tree–even though it was June. He knew how much I enjoyed the holiday. My wife brought in a boom box and a few musical cassettes for me to play. I really didn’t want to hear anything. I just felt … horrible. Half of the medical staff was convinced that some of the problem was in my head, while the remainder of them persisted in their examinations. Meanwhile, I flirted with depression, ready to have a full affair.

It was especially bad at night. During the day, I kept my chin up (both of them) and remained optimistic. But nighttime in a hospital may be the closest thing to solitary confinement that I ever want to  experience. The blinking lights on my Christmas tree, intended to cheer me up, resembled a warning beacon of the doom lying ahead. So one night I reached over, picked up a cassette, and dropped it into the boom box. It was Carole King’s Tapestry.I do not know whether I was just vulnerable, needy or finally open enough to hear the music, but as her album played, I just laid in my bed and cried. When she sang, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? I wept because I wondered if there would be a tomorrow.  Her song, Far Away, made me yearn for the freedom to be out of the hospital and back to my life again. Too Late, Baby caused me to hope that I wasn’t. Way Over Yonder gave me the promise that no matter what happened through the diagnosis, I still had a future. Even Smackwater Jack put a little feisty fight into my soul. I just kept playing that cassette over and over again, energized every time she sang Beautiful (…“you’ve got to get up every morning, with a smile on your face …”) I even teared up over Natural Woman, although my manliness was completely intact. And of course, You’ve Got a Friend saved my soul from the desperation of giving up on possibility.

Carole King became my ministering angel. I recalled that some people didn’t like her, thinking she was a singer that couldn’t even win an audition for a glee club at a small junior college, but I didn’t care. Her songs were anointed with spirit, hope, humanity and tenderness and in that darkened room, with Christmas lights flashing, I found God through Carole King.

About four days into my ordeal, they discovered I had two large abscesses in my body that needed to be removed. I was so relieved to find out that I was really sick. They told me that the operation was serious and that I could lose the ability to take care of my own bowels–and maybe end up in a wheel chair. But I didn’t care. Because as it turns out, it wasn’t “Too Late, Baby,” and I was going to be “Loved Tomorrow,” and God’s grace was not “Far Away” and life truly, truly was “Beautiful” ,,, and “I Had a Friend.”

I will never forget that experience … when I had the opportunity of Tapping Tapestry.

And I learned that day something I know to this very moment–that prayers have value. Bible reading is intriguing, but until spirituality is released creatively through human talent and made into something tangible–something we can understand–it is merely a promise instead of a reality. Since then I have written songs, plays, symphonies and movies to try to dissolve God into an elixir that can be drunk deeply by humankind. We are not supernatural. But we are fully capable of receiving the natural in a creative, super way.

So thank you to Carole King for allowing herself to be a vessel, taking real emotion and passing it through her talent and delivering it to this pilgrim, who was broken and nearly defeated. Because Carole is right.

 People are gonna treat you better. You’re gonna find out–yes you will–that you’re beautiful … as you feel.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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