It was the first news story I saw when I woke up Monday morning: Country Star Randy Travis Stuns Crowd by—Singing.

I’m not exactly sure why the headline caught my eye, buried as it was by election sewage.  Also? I’m not a country music fan. Of course, most of us know the genius that is Randy Travis. He’s a 57-year-old icon, a creative giant whose music artistry breathed fresh life into a gasping genre decades ago. I grew up to the sounds and stories of Randy Travis. If there was an arena, he sang in it. If there was an award, he won it.

Until 2013, when a viral infection around his heart caused a massive stroke that nearly killed him. It didn’t kill him. But it stole his voice.

To be honest, I didn’t know any of this until Monday morning, when I happened to glance at my news app. I vaguely recalled something had interrupted Randy’s career, something that kept him from the spotlight. But I was consumed enough with my own story in 2014 and 2015 that I hadn’t paid much attention to his.

The article went on to talk about Randy’s music performance on Sunday night, part of his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. For the past three years, he’s been walking through a Lazarus-sized coming-back-from-the-dead. Family members say he’s still unable to speak, couldn’t have delivered an eloquent acceptance oratory, even if he wanted to. But he could sing. One song. Even if audience members said it was far from the voice they once knew.

Before I say another word, let me be clear: My losses don’t compare to Randy’s, not even close. I know this. But I also know I’ve experienced enough to imagine what the last three years have looked like for him.

Randy’s stroke didn’t just change his health. It altered the entire trajectory and experience of his life. And, as much as fans and family celebrate his “return to the stage,” no amount of medical treatment, speech therapy or emotional recovery will give him his old life back.

Because of that, I have an inkling of how much it cost Randy to climb onto that platform Sunday night. To step back under the hot lights, altered as he is. To allow himself to be seen as the man he is, not the man he once was.

Truth is very few people understand this. In a world of dreamers who need nice Hollywood endings, very few can see—or accept—the harsh reality: some stories don’t have happy endings, some losses can’t be recovered and time doesn’t make all grief go away.

In other words, the courage Randy displayed on Sunday’s stage is no greater than the unseen courage he shows every flipping day he chooses wake up and live.

For those of you who understand the truth behind my words, I want you to know: I see you. I see you facing each day of your unrecognizable life. I see your trembling will to keep going, even when you’re not entirely sure why. I see you fight to open your eyes, your heart, your arms. And I see the silent courage you display in allowing yourself to show up and be seen. It’s more difficult than anyone knows.

Though years have passed, you are not the same. Your Loss—a child, a relationship, a body that works, a marriage, a hope—isn’t so small that time, therapy or a prescription will make all things well. You may have days when step out into light, and perhaps those of around you exhale with relief: She’s back. But I also know there is no going back. And, because of that, you have plenty of days when you’d rather hide than stand on a stage and sing.

This is the courage that no one sees, when life’s losses are big and sweeping, and when they alter not just a day but an entire lifetime of days. But that sliver of audacious courage you carry around in your beat-up body is what makes possible those Sunday night, Randy Travis moments. When a crowd of wide-eyed onlookers stare at the face of someone who shouldn’t be alive, but somehow finds the will to to sing. And, in the light of this public undoneness, they borrow a bit of courage for their own.

By the way, the song Randy Travis sang Sunday night?

Amazing Grace.

Because those who face the brutal truth of this unexpected life know hard work and determination can only carry a person so far. Sometimes the only strength and courage we strugglers have left to cling to is grace.

Amazing, unflinching, undying Grace.

{P.S. And Randy? Thank you for lending this once-singing girl the courage to keep belting it out.)

[reminder]Where do you find hidden courage when you fear you have none? [/reminder]

{Image Copyright: albund / 123RF Stock Photo}

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