The surprising moments when joy and sorrow meet
by Rich Kirkpatrick
All it takes is a second for your world to change. In an instant, oxygen escapes your lungs. A pervasive heaviness slows down time, robbing your legs the strength to stand. Life-changing news sucker punches us–whether it’s winning the lottery or losing your home to a fire. At the sight of his new baby girl, Weston recalls his moment this way: “There’s a realignment of the universe when you look into your child’s eyes.” Weston felt all the rush of emotions and thoughts as any new dad would. A young couple welcomes their first child into the world. But, that moment of joy quickly evaporated. As our new dad sat and held his baby, looking at her in the eyes, he heard his wife plead for help from the other side of the hospital room. “I’m bleeding. I’m dying.” The scene flashed instantly from joy to horror.
I heard my wife plead for her life
The nurses were crying, praying, and kissing the new mother’s forehead in anticipation of the worst. Amy, a new mom, appeared near to death. The medical staff struggled to save her life, providing a potent dose of fear for Weston. Amy underwent four hours of surgery while Weston, with a newborn in one arm, carried the fear of the unknown in the other. As if that wasn’t enough, the life-saving surgery included a hysterectomy. This additional life-changing news shattered the future planned by this young couple. Amy and Weston would lose the ability to have more children of their own. While bringing a new baby girl home brought joy, they also shed tears of grief.
We all cannot prepare for that movement when joyful hopes meet painful realities. Both joy and pain exist, often at the same time and place. Old Bear Records artist, Weston Skaggs, wrote “Out of the Wreckage,” reflecting on one such moment. The deepest and truest questions often arrive during our suffering. The simplest yet most profound questions are, “Why?” “Why did this happen to us?” Weston, in describing his experience, quoted Oswald Chambers who said, “Though our pain is real, we don’t have to be alone in it. The love of God will bear us through anything.” Weston knows this message well, so hearing him share it in conversation as well as in a song is as authentic as it gets. The chorus of “Out of the Wreckage” prays honestly as we face life’s realities this side of heaven:
That I’m not alone in this fight
And out of the wreckage I’ll rise
The battle may rage but my hope is in Christ
And out of the wreckage I’ll rise
Weston Meets Old Bear
While Weston was waiting in the maternity ward, he happened to notice on his phone a direct message on Twitter. Chris Hoisington of Old Bear Records happened to see Weston’s first music video with the song “Deliver” pop up on a feed. Weston already followed Chris Hoisington’s band Brothers McClurg on Pandora. As a new artist with his first EP out, hearing from the likes of Brothers McClurg and Old Bear Studios was exciting. Reaching out, Chris thought Weston and his music might fit well with the Old Bear crew. “We share a similar vibe…let’s hangout sometime,” Chris invited. Normally, a detail like this might not stick in one’s mind, but it happened on such an eventful day. Random? “No, I don’t forget that day,” Weston says. The next year, Weston would be writing and recording at Old Bear Studios.
Dealing with PTSD became a new reality in the aftermath of Paisley’s birth and Amy’s loss of fertility. This young family had to process loss while enjoying their new daughter. Weston shares his experience this way: “It was a very complicated time when you’re grieving the loss of future biological children, and yet you are having some of the best time of your life with your new baby…we were having the brightest mornings of our lives and darkest nights of our lives.” For Weston, the thought “joy and sorrow meet” kept coming to him and became the title of his CD.
A small miracle appeared
Given time for healing, Weston and Amy knew adoption would present an opportunity in the future. They filled out the adoption agency’s forms to apply to adopt, but before they even finalized the required home study paperwork the agency contacted them. Weston and Amy did not expect to even begin the search or be approved, yet the call came. A little boy in the NICU at Rainbow Children’s Hospital needed a family. The boy’s own biological parents rejected several potential adoptive parents. The agency said, “Can we submit you even though all the paperwork isn’t completed?” Amy and Weston were not quite ready for such a breakthrough. Sometimes the adoption process requires painful ups and downs, taking months and even years. Weston and Amy had their expectations challenged yet one more time. Would this baby boy be healthy? All it takes is a moment for your world to change. One week later, Weston and Amy brought Bo home from the hospital–their new baby boy.
The Old Bear Studios is where “Out of the Wreckage” was recorded. Imagine a huge munitions factory—100-years-old. As you walk through the door, vintage instruments, Johnny Cash memorabilia, and smells of old wood and antiques hit you. “It feels right, just walk up to the wall and pick up a guitar to play. The atmosphere encourages creativity. No boundaries. Simply pick up an instrument and play. The surroundings invite you to experiment.” Weston’s first trip to Old Bear included two days of writing and birthed six brand-new tunes. “Out of the Wreckage” was already written, but Weston wanted to do a quick recording of it. In yet another serendipitous moment, a fully-recorded single was “accidentally” finished that day. After such a productive time, Weston knew he had to record an entire album at Old Bear Studios.
First new Old Bear artist to record in the Old Bear Studio
Speaking of birth and babies, Old Bear Records signed Weston Skaggs. Additionally, he was the first recording artist on the Old Bear Records roster–other than Brothers McClurg–to record an album at Old Bear Studios. The studio has since seen a steady flow of talent come through their doors, which you will hear about on these pages in the near future. And, the roster of gifted artists at Old Bear Records continues to grow. “Out of the Wreckage” has two other co-writing credits that deserve mention. Ian Zumback, now a fellow Old Bear Records artist, and Joel Rousseau collaborated on the tune.
Songs have a life of their own. Weston says, “We write things that we need…to preach them to ourselves. Its a truth we need (as songwriters).” You can’t get away from it if it starts preaching to you. Weston explains that the thought in this song was not something he spent much time meditating on before writing it. In your 20s, you live on the sunny side of the street. Hopes and dreams are the motivators, but fear can wipe those out if we lose our way. To live a life with open hands means accepting the joy with the sorrow. Suffering is a very human thing. We connect with each other in our pain, and Christ’s suffering relates to ours. In fact, when we embrace times of grief, we are allowed to deeply commune with Christ. However, who willingly runs in this direction?
Joy and sorrow meet
The story of Weston and his music promises further chapters yet to be written. All of us who are artists and fellow sojourners appreciate people like Weston. Authenticity is more than a random response as it requires a well, filled slowly with character. Weston reminds us how intentional being authentic really is: “You wanna do it in the right spirit, not to exploit your life but humbly to be real with people.” Did I mention that there is yet one more life-changing moment in the story of “Out of the Wreckage?”
The moments I was contacting Weston to write down this story, Weston was holding yet another baby. He sent me the photo below. Amara, now two weeks old, awaits going home with Weston, Amy, Paisley and Boaz, a new family of five! While Bo’s adoption was fast, Amara’s came even faster. Now, Weston lives with the joy and sorrow of diapers and three small children. All it takes is a second for your world to change.