Ellen and I were sitting at the piano, singing our way through an exquisite contemporary tune, entitled “Help Is on the Way.” We’d both fallen deeply for Nancy LaMott’s recording, and it was Ellen who contacted the composer, David Friedman, to see if we could get the music.
I’ve always been haunted by this song. It’s so optimistic about the future, even while acknowledging the difficulties we face. Nancy LaMott, for whom this was a signature piece, sang it with such conviction, even as her cancer-stricken life was ebbing away:
“Don’t give up the ship even when you think it’s sinking and you don’t know what to do. Don’t give up your dream even though you may be thinking it never will come true. Life has its own ideas of how things come about; and if you just hang in there life is gonna work it out. Help is on the way from places you don’t know about today. From friends you may not have met yet. Believe me when I say I know. Help is on the way.”
In the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s taught, “There is hope if we let ourselves be helped.” I know what it’s like to feel alone, that there’s no one to turn to, to sense despair in the emptiness of it all. But I also know the strength that comes from a tender embrace, a compassionate ear, a helping hand, gradually replacing the night with a few resurrecting rays of hope-filled light.
In 1994, Nancy LaMott was rushed to the hospital where her loved ones learned she only had days to live. In those brief hours, she was embraced by her closest friends and family, phoned by her devoted fan, President Bill Clinton, and promised by the composer of “Help Is on the Way” that her voice would continue to be heard. Then, only an hour before her death, she married the love of her life. As her website tells it, “Nancy LaMott had it all, if only for 45 minutes.”
The secret to living (and I think Nancy LaMott understood this) … is to know long before the hour of our death just how rich we truly are. Neither money, fame nor power hold the tiniest candle to the sense of completeness that accompanies a life of giving and of receiving love.
P.S. You can listen to Nancy Lamott singing “Help Is On the Way” here …