Dear Partner Letter #21: My Witness

Songs & Stories From Home Episode 81



You’re my witness to this journey
To the road that I am on
All the times when I was up
All the ways that I’ve been down
Yours the voice that I am hearing
Yours the eyes that I can see
Where I go when I grow weary
Faith enough so I believe
There’s the story of the forest
And the tree I think that fell
Cause no one was there to hear it
I guess we can’t really tell

We all need a witness to the stories of our lives
I wanted to tell you I am grateful you are mine


That’s the first verse and the refrain of a song called My Witness. It’s from an album McCoy and I recorded called Between Old Friends.


Dear Partner,

It’s been quite an experience to take this time, to write these letters to you, to attempt to put into words where we’ve come from, how we got here, where we are now, where we might be headed. When we were in the midst of a lot of it, I didn’t or couldn’t appreciate it like I might have. And looking back now has been a chance to reflect on and to see things in a little different light. To listen again to the music we made. To reflect on the process of making it. To realize a lot of the songs had been put a way somewhere and somehow forgotten. And to see that at times I saw things like the Meany Hall concert in 1984 for what wasn’t accomplished instead of for all we did do. Writing these letters has been a chance to focus on how far we’ve come instead of where we didn’t get to, instead of the anxiety in the effort focus on the joy of it all. A good thing to see looking back and a good reminder going forward.

It is a challenge to write these open letters, to take a very personal way of communicating that’s becoming less common and share it in a public way. 

These letters have led and continue to lead to some significant insights and realizations, finding words and ways to explore, explain, and express some big stuff. Among them the idea that individually and collectively a big part of our life’s journey has been to find ways to live lives of love and truth. It sounds simple to say it. And so clear once we say it. Not so easy to put it into practice.

In writing this particular letter I saw an important tie that binds us. I realized we each had a moment later in life, you at 48 and me at 50, that opened a doorway and helped light the way to a life of love and truth. For you it was that dark night when you could finally see and believe you were loved. For me it was at my dad’s memorial when in his own words, in that most public place a family secret was unexpectedly revealed and I was finally free to explore all the dark places the secret had kept hidden, free to fill what had long been silence with songs and stories, to face my fears and give them names. To be set free by the truth and where there was fear bring love. 

In part these are ties that bind because we were together at those moments, bearing witness to and for each other. A definition of bearing witness is to show that something exists or is true. And so we did. And so we do. 

We all need a witness to the stories of our lives
I wanted to tell you I am grateful you are mine


Years ago I read that writing a novel is like walking in the dark carrying a lamp that offers just enough light to see a step or two ahead. I believe one can say the same about composing a life. At my dad’s memorial I had no idea the gift I was receiving when my father’s and our family’s history of mental illness finally became public knowledge. Months later when I saw exposing that secret as my dad’s last gift, I had no idea how long it would take to understand what that gift meant and how long it would take for that gift to migrate from mind to marrow. How long I would try unsuccessfully to undo, or un-tell, the stories I had told myself for so long about how un-loveable and flawed I believed I was. How long it would be before I would be able to find and face such fears, define them, understand them, give them meaning, give them names, be able to make them part of a new and bigger story, a love story.

If someone had told me as we were walking out of my dad’s memorial it would take ten years before I would truly believe I was lovable and loved and another ten before I had faith in the fact I was home, home with myself, with those I loved and who loved me, and with the world, I don’t know what I would have said or done, or how much I would have or could have understood of what I was hearing.

Leaving that memorial offered just enough light to see a few steps ahead. With just enough delight to know I was not alone.

We all need a witness to the stories of our lives
I wanted to tell you I am grateful you are mine


In a POST SCRIPT let me say I look forward to sharing with you in future letters more about my dad’s last gift, what it meant and means to me, and the two ten year journeys that gift inspired.  

And in a POST POST SCRIPT I want to thank my wife, Pat, who has worked hard adding images to these letters and who is leaving now to be Grammy to our two grandsons and to welcome a new grandchild into the world.  


You’re the keeper of my secrets
The guardian of my dreams
Haven for my disappointments
Safe there in your memories
Just to know that someone’s watching
Just to know that you are there
Awake and waiting in my garden
So alert and so aware
I have heard that songs and stories
Make it so we never die
Maybe I could live without you
With you I’m truly alive


We all need a witness to the stories of our lives
I wanted to tell you I am grateful you are mine