Yes. You are.
A great thing about this tune for me is that it is easy to sing. The verses, if you pay attention, are sad ~ contrasting rather sharply with the beloved chorus; which, I feel sure, is the core of the song’s wide popularity ~ the title finding it’s way to all manner of jewelry pieces, clothing, accessories, and home décor pieces.
My father left this world to the sound of his Gibson Hummingbird guitar, played my sister, Karie
, and the voices of his children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and friends singing this song.
The house was full of people. The day before, I had been terrified I would not make it there in time. I had rushed out of school leaving stacks of final exams and sketchy instructions, calling my dad’s house several times and making my sister put the phone to his ear as I drove. I made it in time ~ so comforted to be with my family. Then, a hard night for everyone.
But, that last day was beautiful in many ways. And the moment he left ~ well, there aren’t words for the beauty and the way the light expanded and how the universe shifted in that moment.
My sister and I had gone into the kitchen and were sitting at the table ~ just taking a break. My niece, perfectly named Sunny
, came in and asked why we weren’t in there with “Poppy”. Her pain so raw and visible - emanating from her broken heart and melding with ours. My sister asked Sunny if she wanted to go in there and sing “You Are My Sunshine” for him. She did.
We sat on the bed with him and Karie started strumming - then, with her angel voice, began to sing. Gradually, everyone in the room was singing. The harmony, beautiful. At first, the words came tentatively ~ but the music grew and filled the room and then the house because after a moment, both doors to my dad’s bedroom were crowded with cousins.
And then, what I cannot describe. What I did not believe, but I did. What I asked my aunts if it really happened. The light in the room changed and the energy shifted. But that’s not it because like I said, I can’t describe it, but I know my dad’s spirit filled that whole room (and maybe the whole house and the whole world for all I know and understand) and touched every person in there and everyone who was there said they felt it and I’ve never heard anyone say differently since.
One of my aunts, Sarita
, a talented floral artist, did a perfect arrangement for his service with a guitar and sheet music of You Are My Sunshine. And though always a family favorite, for me, the song took on a mystical, magical quality in my life.
Since that day, I’ve heard so many lovely, touching stories about mommas and babies and grandparents and birthdays and hospital stays and broken hearts and grief and on and on that include this song. So many. And I think about those stories and the day my dad died and I paint. And I think about the night my parents and two sisters (all of us adults) went to Ft. Worth for dinner and sang tons of songs on the way. And I think about my dad teaching me to play this song on the piano ~ patiently ~ the first song I learned to play “with both hands” as I said back then. And I paint and paint and paint. Because that’s what I do now to bring light into the world if I can.
This song is not why I draw and paint so many suns. That’s a story about kindergarten and my young mom and a cedar chest. A story for another day.
So. Just so you know. You are my sunshine.
Be the light.