I have a sister and a father, but I no longer need to buy them birthday cards. I don’t have their numbers in my address book and I don’t worry about running out of minutes on my cell phone plan when I tell them about my latest home improvement project. I still talk to them from time to time, but not when anyone else might be listening. I still love them and tell funny stories to other people about them and share memories with other family members, but mostly, I just miss them.

I used to think the amount of grief we feel at the loss of a loved one was directly proportional to the amount of love we felt for them in life. But now I know that’s not true. I found the grief could grow so much darker and bigger if I watered it with the tears of regret and guilt. Turning away from those joy killers, I tried to let my tears put out the fire in the worst of the pain, and then later, when the tears came again, I let them help me grow something else. I tried to grow something new, something that would strengthen me and help me use my memories to live a life of fewer regrets and more healthy choices. I hope you too can let the tears remind you that you can be stronger for having loved and learned rather than crippled for having loved and lost.

I wish that I could encourage everyone who had suffered a life-separation with some great truth of healing, but I know that not every rope is a life line and everyone’s journey is different.  Still, if have found that some things seem to work for most of us, and perhaps you can weave a few of these “life lines” together into a strong rope to pull yourself up when you need it.

The first of these life lines that worked for me, was to redouble my efforts to give and share love with those nearest and dearest to me. I didn’t always succeed, but after the initial shock and life changes I experienced in bereavement, the encouragement and kindness that I could still give away turned out to be the very thing my heart needed to heal. As I looked back, I think I gave more through my music than I did to my family directly, and if I could go back and change that, I would. Still for all of us It seems unfair to be asked to give when we are most in need, and I understand that you can only offer so much from a cup near empty. But please believe me, every drop of kindness you give will come back to you. And in giving, you find yourself more comfortable taking.

My second life line was learning to accept help. Please my friends, take the comfort offered you. It was never our Creator’s plan that we suffer our tragedies alone. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase,” Give and you shall receive” but did you ever think that it might be more about love than cash, and more about healing than prospering. I let pride keep me from the compassion of others far too many times. I needed to remember that letting people be caring, generous, and supportive is allowing them to be their better selves. Accept kindness with grace and gratitude. Remember it will be your turn to give it back sooner or later.

My third life line was resolving to not give up on love. Hearts stop beating but love goes on. We still feel it. We can still rejoice in it and still give it away. If you are thankful for good memories of the loved ones that are no longer in our state of being, then you know the value of making more good memories with those still close at hand. Don’t miss the chance to pass on the warmth and joy that life still holds for you.

With that in mind, I offer the lyric to a lullaby I wrote for my wife’s young grandchildren. It is our hope, that they will someday hear this and know that they were, and are loved. I want them to know that they are in our prayers and that we want them to grow in wisdom and kindness all the days of their lives.

I can honestly say that in writing this song, I took a step in my own healing from loss and other hurts life has tossed my way. I’m grateful to my wife for asking me to write it, and drew upon the love I see in her eyes to create it.

I hope that you will sing and speak of your own love, especially to your children, even if they are no longer with you in this life. I believe they will still feel that love, and you are better for giving it. Perhaps this song will help someone else’s child sleep tonight, and perhaps it will help you, drift off someplace where hope still fills your sails and love is your guiding star across a peaceful sea of dreams.

Little boy, as you let your eyes close

I wish I could tell you all the things you should know

Wish I could see all the places you’ll go

as you sail into your dreams

Little boy, as you lay down tonight

drift off to sleep, When we turn out the lights

we said our prayers and everything’s all right

as you sail into your dreams

You are safe and you are loved, and I know that God above

hears you pray, when you’re down on your knees

Before long, you’ll grow strong, but I’ll still sing your song

as you sail into your dreams

Little boy, as you wait for the light

The ones who love you will pray every night

That you’ll be safe and that you’re future will be bright

as you sail into your dreams

Little boy, as you grow up to be

a strong but gentle man who knows what he believes

It still helps to spend some time, down on your knees

as you sail into your dreams.

You are safe and you are loved, and I know that God above

hears you pray, when you’re down on your knees

Before long, you’ll grow strong, but I’ll still sing your song

as you sail into your dreams

You can hear a portion of this song at my website – and perhaps even play it for your little one some night when your own voice needs a rest.


Michael Nunley

Michael Nunley's love for music began in his youth. He was singing in churches and sharing the stage with well known performers in shows and television appearances all across the Ohio Valley. Growing up in a military family, Michael traveled extensively. He considers himself blessed to have experienced the beauty and diversity of so much of our world and it's people. Michael was a music scholarship recipient at Walters State College and at The University of Tennessee. As a member of the U.T. Singers, he toured and performed as a soloist with "Tennessee's Musical Ambassadors." He continued his involvement in the performing arts, playing guitar, bass, synthesizer and percussion as well as expanding his vocal abilities. He began to write and record his own music while serving as Interim Worship Leader at his church. It was during this time he produced his first CD of original songs as a music department fund raiser. In 2010, the Governor of Kentucky awarded Michael membership in The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, the state's highest title of honor, for writing and performing the theme song, "Because We Care", for the Kentucky Employee Charitable Contribution campaign. In 2000, tragedy struck twice, causing Michael to have a deeply personal change in his attitude and understanding of loss and grief. His sister, Cyndy, took her own life shortly before his father, Col. Billy F. Nunley (U.S.A.F.) lost his fight with a cancerous brain tumor. Michael is profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have written a song for The Compassionate Friends in 2011, and he found the experience brought him a new level of healing. He hopes to pass along some comfort with his poetry and music. He encourages others to use the creative process of writing, as he has done, to take care of "spiritual housekeeping" and help "Define, Confine, and then Refine " the sorrow into a more constructive energy. Michael says, "Grief is natural. What's UN-natural is dying from it in solitude. Accepting help, learning from it and passing along the healing is far better. That seems to me to be a cycle of life that will expand our compassion without killing the possibility of joy."

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