22 November 2021
She’s With Me
Lynne Norman, Mission and Community Engagement Development Officer with the Methodist Church, shares the background to one of her favourite songs in this blog.
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but country music is almost synonymous with home for me. And the music of Collin Raye conjures up memories of family sing-alongs and the soundtrack of road trips and holidays. So deep is my love for Collin that my mum, my best friend and I once took a very long ferry ride to Belfast and back, simply to see him in concert.
My "Collin-love" was already well-established when he released his 2009 album, Never Going Back (which contains a few other tracks I could easily blog about), featuring this absolutely stunning, musical tribute to his granddaughter Haley, who spent her short life battling a severe neurological disorder and who sadly died – aged 9 – in 2010.
When I first heard "She’s With Me" it quite simply floored me (to be honest, it still does). Not only is the tune, played beautifully on an acoustic guitar, a perfect showcase for a voice that I love to listen to, but the lyrics are so deeply personal and every single word is heavy with the weight of the (almost defiant) love this man has for his granddaughter. As Collin sings this perfect, simple song, explaining the joys and the trials of loving a child with additional needs, I would challenge anyone not to feel moved. I still well-up when I hear it.
I have the immense privilege of being ‘Auntie Lynne’ to (among many other children) a friend’s son who is autistic and non-verbal. I love this little boy and his family deeply and they have granted me the huge honour of being a part of their ‘chosen’ family, placing me within their circle of trust. Like the words of the song, I wear this role as a ‘badge of honour’ and count myself blessed to do so. The lyrics that really resonate for me, as Auntie Lynne, are these:
She lets me know she feels my love when she’s with me
I know just what heaven looks like when I see that perfect face […]
How could I be the one you chose to care for our girl
Never done a single deed to earn the right to share her light
If all humanity is made in the image of God, then that includes those with special educational needs, those who are neuro-divergent, and those who communicate using non-verbal means. What glimpse of God do these fearfully and wonderfully-made members of the Body of Christ grant to us? For one thing, I know what pure, unfiltered joy in creation looks like, because I see it when I watch my friend’s son paddle bare-footed in the cold sea, or when he giggles uncontrollably as he enjoys the physical experiences of swimming or bouncing on his trampoline. It is, quite simply, worship in its purest form. I also see this boy bring out the best in the people around him – including me. Watching his mum and his sisters as they love and care for him teaches me a lot about Godly, sacrificial love.
Whilst Raye uses his song to describe the joy of loving a child with additional needs, and the pride he takes in his role as Haley’s advocate in the world, he doesn’t shy away from or dismiss the pain that comes with having to watch his granddaughter suffer and struggle. Instead, as a committed Christian, he trusts in God and looks forward to the hope of an eternal life, where roles will be reversed and his beloved Haley will be his advocate in Heaven. Regardless of your theology of heaven, hell, and the resurrection of the dead, there’s something beautiful about this man’s certainty of God’s love for his granddaughter and his faith that – whatever heaven looks like – Haley is sure of a place there.
Find out more about Collin's music here.
This article was first published on the Friday Fix Blog published by the Eastern Team for the Methodist Learning Network.