I’ve known this hymn was going to happen for a long time. I promised Jason’s family I would do it a while ago. So when they got hundreds of their friends to vote for this hymn in the last few hours of last month’s vote, I knew they were tired of waiting for me.
Before everyone jumps down my throat over why I chose the second verse instead of the third verse, there’s a reason. One reason is that this hymn is just too long with four verses. One of them couldn’t make the cut. Most everyone that does this song cuts the second verse and leaves the third verse, which is about Jesus dying for our sins. But the context behind this arrangement will help explain why I chose to focus on God’s creations.
I’ve been friends with the Edwards family for a long time. They’re good, good people. There always seems to be a member of that family present in most of my favorite memories from growing up.
In May 2013, the youngest brother, Jason, was killed doing what he loved most – exploring and jumping off of waterfalls. It was a freak accident that shocked everyone.
His sister, Tammy, asked if I would perform this hymn with her at Jason’s funeral. Right before she sang it, I remember her saying that she had been trying to think of which song she could sing about Jason, and then she got a strong feeling that Jason didn’t want her to sing a song about him. He wanted her to sing a song for him. Or in other words, sing what he would sing. That second verse is exactly how Jason felt. So it was Tammy that decided to sing the second verse instead of the third. Everyone already knew how Jason felt about Christ. The second verse told them how he felt about God’s creations.
She then poured every ounce of emotion she had into this hymn. It was amazing. I was lucky to witness it. I was lucky to have been a part of it.
I only knew Jason when he was a little kid. Since he was the youngest, I never got to know him as an adult. But he’s an Edwards. That already tells me how good of a person he is.
Now onto part two of this arrangement…
This isn’t how I was planning to do this. I had worked up a completely different version – one without singing – that I felt was going to be pretty cool if I could pull it off. Well I couldn’t pull it off. I injured my left index finger. I don’t know how, but something happened. I had a mass growing on the inside of the bone near the base of the finger that playing the guitar incredibly painful. I went to the doctor and turns out it was a ganglion cyst. He stuck a giant needle in it and poof! Gone.
But I now think the cyst was a symptom and not the cause of the pain. I must have fractured the bone somehow. I’ve done it before. It just needs rest. I plan to go back to the doctor this week to have him check it out more, but I’m not too worried. I know the drill by this point.
When it became obvious that the pain was just too much and that I wouldn’t be able to play that other arrangement, I decided to scrap it at the last second and do this one, which only uses the other three fingers and my thumb. I had to stretch a lot to make it work, but I think it turned out alright. I also had to opt for an electric instead of acoustic because the strings are easier to push down. The chords are much easier to play than it looks when you can use that index finger. It just so happens I chopped the tip of that finger off when I was fifteen, so I spent a lot of my teenage years learning to play the guitar without it. It’s the main reason I use my thumb so much. It’s still painful to use the tip of it. But I manage it most of the time.
So ultimately, this is the version that came out in the end. It’s very similar to the version we did at Jason’s funeral. I changed the style for the first half. I wanted to do something that conveyed water. That’s what the consistent fingerpicking pattern is supposed to be. The constant flow of a stream, river or waterfall. Always audible. Always there.
Now that it’s done, I’m glad it turned out this way and not the other way. This is such an emotional hymn. The way we tend to sing it at church misses all of it, in my opinion. I hate singing. I’m completely self-conscious about it. I think most guitar players are. I’ve been warming up to the sound of my voice over the years, but it’s still hard for me to do. It makes me feel naked. But I guess with this hymn, that’s a good thing. Nothing to cover the emotion of this hymn.
I hope Jason’s family likes it. I hope he does too.
*** The beard just kind of happened this winter. Don’t get too used to it. :)