From the Rooftops… Paisley, Part 7

Lyrical Turn

Within a week following Paisley’s homecoming, my irrepressible happiness began to find its way onto the page, where a lengthy poem about the ordeal began to take shape. Following a period of toil, in which I wrangled with seesawing themes of despair and elation, the incubation yielded a grander idea. Feeble as the poetic embryo seemed, I sought out backup, rather clandestinely contacting my brother-in-law, a gifted musician:

I feel that this poem simply falls short of that moment, of what it felt like to actually be there. Do you think you can turn it into a song?

The smile began in his eyes – could he? Such an unnecessary question.

Off we galloped, plunging headlong into a deep green country, questing after a few lines of bittersweet elven hymn. The haberdashery hunt for a fitting melody ran long. “To feel the moment, to feel what it was to be there.” This ambition proved far easier to describe than to achieve. As the melody wound its way forward, the lyrics correspondingly changed and shifted. Eventually we found a convergence, setting upon the skeletal melody and verses for the song.

At that point, we broadened our circle to three, joined by one of our close friends, a peerless soprano. She brought the ethereal, the Elven, and the angelic to our burgeoning work, infusing snatches of another world that wove among and above the terrestrial. The two of them talked over my head about keys and time signatures, though I did conceptually understand the chiastic structure we settled upon.

As the song continued to be hammered out, my brother-in-law was able to enlist the help of a producer friend, as well as some other musicians. He essentially put together everything we needed to make a professional recording. And the other artists astonished me – Christian or not, they believed in the project anyway.

Seeing It

Not being a musician, my abilities were generally confined to the pen. However, this changed once I began work on the production of an accompanying video with the help of my eldest son. My past brushes with amateur filmmaking found an artistic outlet, and I probably worked to excess in the quest to capture the moment.

Pressing to Finish

All the while this was going on, my wife remained in the dark – for her it was to be a surprise. She knew I was up to something, but the content of that something remained quite undisclosed.

In any case, the deadline of Paisley’s first birthday loomed and pressed us to finish. The final version made the entire musical team weep: a sign that it was indeed ready. We made it in time too, albeit in a hurried cloud of happy exhaustion.

I have rarely been more satisfied with anything in life. My partners in the project felt the same. It was an artwork suffused with a deep personal dimension, a song that truly meant something to us. It taught me, in particular, why some choose to forgo more lucrative careers in order to pursue a life of music. It was addictive in every way.


We invited more than a hundred guests to our home for Paisley’s birthday, and most were from our church. I said at the time that there would never be an adequate way to thank everyone for their support, but that Paisley’s song was the best attempt I could make. We crammed into the living room and finally watched the long-labored ballad (note: good bass/sound system/headphones a must):

My dear bride was indeed surprised, and quite moved to tears, which was for me the only measure of success that mattered. Afterward, the house brightened with cake and conversation, as herds of children roamed everywhere. So went the celebration, with thankfulness and bittersweet joy, wrapped in the embrace of community. Eventually, her birthday party wound down. When the guests had gone home, my wife and I watched and wept all over again. We thought of Paisley, and how entirely perfect she was.

Beautiful, Fleeting Normal

From there life marched on, and all returned to a quieter normalcy. It found us contented and peaceful, though we had aged a bit more that year. At times, we felt like the old couple on a park bench, as our wistful gaze followed the dash of our four children, while we breathed deeply and drank in the moments.

I would have been the last to predict the approaching life derailment, which struck a mere five months later. That first book I opened had nothing to do with meningitis or infants. So I was surprised to find, that it just happened to explain, in almost casual and certainly disturbing terms, why Paisley was still with us.


[to be continued…]

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  1. Charity says:

    Hi Matt, sorry to have been so silent lately. Much going on, won’t waste your time getting into it all right now.

    I remember when you and Janelle shared this with me a few months ago. Reading your last few entries reminded me of something that clicked inside of me halfway through my final two year deconversion period.

    I was following a local Christian blogger’s journey through her daughter’s deadly brain cancer. I began asking questions in my prayers. I quit praying for God to heal this little four year old girl and started to ask “Him” “Why?” I began to hold this Jesus to some accountability. I even asked my husband about why a preschooler needed to suffer. He, in religious sincerity, went on about shit like “fallen state”, blah, blah, blah….you know the robotic answers. Looking back at that time, I now realize that I still believed in God at that point, but I DID NOT LIKE HIM! No child deserves to suffer, especially a baby. When Christian friends and family members want to criticize your decision to leave Christianity because “God” healed your baby girl, they need to remember that the bigger miracle would have been for Paisley to have never had any deathly sicknesses or diseases. The fact that she was so horribly ill shows us that if there is a God, he is a sadistic bastard, if there was the cross, its redemption is null and void. For if Christ’s death and resurrection conquered death, hell and the grave, then why all the disease, death and violence all around us? How is it that the so called free will of a disaster or violent person carries more weight and honor over an innocent man, woman or child’s free will?

    All the doubts that I had as a young adult, came full circle 20 years later. No apologetics and fast talk could convince me to stay in the faith, I was holding God responsible for his actions or the lack thereof this time. For me, I choose to believe that he doesn’t exist rather than to continue to buy the same ole’ crap.

    Thanks for sharing this series with the public. Paisley is a beautiful and healthy looking baby. I’m glad that she’s around to fill your hearts and home with love. I wish you and Janelle a beautiful summer with your gorgeous four kids!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Charity… I’m coming to the rearward looking analysis stage shortly. Nearly done with the narrative of what happened, having only one section to go. 🙂


      • Charity says:

        I’ll be looking for it, Matt. Your narrative of this experience is fantastic. I appreciate the love and concern you and Janelle put into your own immediate family, as well as your extended heathen one. Love is an amazing gift we have to give to each other and I admire how you two care for others.
        Take Care

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Stunningly beautiful. A labour of love. A work of art.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just simply beautiful. Looking forward to read the next page.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The smile began in his eyes – could he? Such an unnecessary question.

    Lol. 🙂

    The video actually made some droplets of water collect in my eyes…so weird…what is this stuff? 😉

    I almost wish I had waited to start reading the series until you finished writing it, because every time I get to the end of one part, I’m wondering, “what’s next, what’s next?!” I just want to tear through the whole thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Amazing, shivers up the spine beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That last paragraph, haunting. I can’t wait to read more.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thomas says:

    I’ve been following your blog for several months now, visiting almost every day to see what new insights you are sharing and links to other interesting sites you have discovered. Your work has encouraged me in my own de-conversion from Christianity and my continuous quest for truth. I sense your thoughtfulness and genuine spirit in each of your posts. However, this last series of posts regarding Paisley has really touched me, and I cannot remain silent. As a father of two wonderful kids, I appreciate the tremendous courage it takes to share such a personal story.

    As I consider your words describing the events unfolding in Paisley’s first days on this planet, I realize how much love you have for her. You truly suffered with her as she struggled for life. From what you’ve shared, many endured angst along with you in those long days and nights in the hospital. I know that you would have quickly removed her suffering if it was in your power to do so. In fact, you would have prevented this evil from occurring.

    As I contemplate the events you experienced, I realize that many loving parents would have acted just as you, doing whatever it takes to save the life of your child. Yet, the Christian god described in church dogma is quite the opposite. While being proclaimed as a loving father, he is willing to allow extreme suffering.

    As a child being forced to attend Sunday school and church, I never understood how god was supposed to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and loving yet willing to be silent when I called out to him when I was hurting. Further, I’ve never understood how this loving father/god that allegedly created me and desires relationship with me will torture me, his child, with everlasting cruel and unusual punishment in hell for not responding to his whims. When I questioned my Sunday school teachers I was told to repent for this questioning or god will punish me more because I was undercutting their authority in my life.

    To make matters worse, justifying their god’s behavior when terrible events have occurred in my life, Christians attempted to ease my pain with the words, “well, god is just teaching you a lesson with this.” What absurdity! What good father instructs his child by using cruelty? How opposite the Christian god is from you and me. My friend, my conclusion is that you demonstrated more love for your child than the biblical god.

    Matt, you are a good father and I commend you for your courage and sacrifice to see Paisley through this difficult event. Also, thank you for the many hours it takes to share your thoughts, your work, and your life with us on this blog. You have made a meaningful impact in my life. Many blessings to you and your family.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thomas,

      Thanks so much for your comment, and for following along. I must apologize for the late response… I’ve been pretty heads-down with writing, and I haven’t been able to respond in as timely a manner as I would prefer. Your point is well taken, and I’ve had to tread down that same footpath in my own mind. Richard Carrier discusses the same point to good effect in “Why I am not a Christian.”

      Cheers, and I hope to interact a bit more once the push abates… 🙂


  8. Beautiful Matt.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Profoundly moved and deeply touched.


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