This is a picture taken at a recent SW:S retreat. I had just written with a father who carried so much pain. My job was to collaborate with him and get that pain down on paper so he could get it out of his body and be able to look at it from a distance.

Something amazing happens when you do that: when you hear the words of your own story wrapped in a melody. All that sadness and confusion magically turns into a key that, when done right, can unlock that prison door and let your soul see the story for exactly what it is—a story. It doesn’t have to define you anymore. You’re free to move forward, not forgetting what happened, but making space for forgiveness. And freedom.

And once you have your song, it’s like having a secret magic power you can call on at any time—when you forget and need to remember what it was like to feel that kind of clarity and release—all you have to do is hit PLAY.

I’m just a civilian songwriter. By the grace of God, I’ve never had to see or do what these soldiers have had to see or do. But writing songs with them has introduced me to real live superheroes. They have taught me, and continue to teach me, that if they can live with what they’ve seen and done (and sometimes didn’t do), then so can I. I can be braver. I can take chances and not beat myself up when I fall down. I can be a superhero too.

What I love about this picture is that we have just finished our song and my co-writer has asked if he can carry my guitar for me. I’m 5’2″ and my guitar gets heavy sometimes, but I’m used to carrying it everywhere I go. It’s my job.

But what if today, even in the smallest of ways, I helped lighten his load? If I did, I am eternally grateful. I can think of no nobler act than to use my gift as a songwriter to help another feel just a little bit lighter. And in his generous offer of asking to help carry my guitar … well, this soldier just lightened mine. And isn’t that what we’re supposed to do in this life? Have each other’s backs? Take turns carrying the load when it gets to be too much?

Songwriter Georgia Middleman and Gold Star Parent after writing their song at a retreat.
Photo: Matt Lankes