Amy Winehouse, 27, found dead.

This past weekend I was sitting at my dining room table, working on my Sunday sermon, when the tell tale tone of an instant message emitted from my iPhone.   It was from a major news company, and it relayed a news update, with incredibly brevity.     The text said simply this:    “Amy Winehouse, 27, found dead.”   

 Although I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, I was.    Although never a fan, I had, like the rest of the world, known of the bizarre and drug fueled escapades of Amy and her ex-husband.   In the end, I had hoped that it wouldn’t end this way.

Sadly, our society seems to label certain people and their lives as “train wrecks”.   I guess that Amy’s life lived up to that mental image.  Her problems with drugs was no surprise.   She nearly OD’d in 2007 from a lethal combination of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine, and booze.   

Her father, reported in 2008, that crack cocaine had cost her 70% of her lung capacity, and soon would be spending her life on an oxygen mask.  Both Rolling Stone Magazine and BBC reported of her battles with cutting, depression, and eating disorders.   There are even pictures that show her transformation from beautiful and alive to a point where her teeth started to fall out as an effect of her drug use.

The images are stark, disturbing, and sad.    They also seem to blot out the other images of Amy.

Amy was also someone’s daughter.    She was the youngest of two.    Her older brother is named Alex.    Her mom Janis is a pharmacist, and her father, Mitchell, was a taxi driver.     Amy sang constantly, and in fact, teachers used to complain that she would never stop. She formed a singing group with her best friend at 10.  She was given her first guitar at 13.

I found an old picture on line of Amy as a baby.  It was accompanied with a story of how Amy’s father used to sing Frank Sinatra songs to her as a young girl.    I was reminded of how when both my girls were little, I did the same.   

When Annie was just a little one, she was “blessed” with Colic.   Colic kept that child screaming every day and every night for what seemed like months.     Yet, each day I would come home from work, scoop that little girl up, and we would dance across the dining room, the kitchen, the porch, and the backyard to the music of Frank Sinatra.     Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the swaying, or maybe it was some deep down connection we shared, but she would inevitably calm down.   For me, it was a moment of pure wonder, pure love, and pure miracle.   For Stacey and I having kids was never a given, but yet there I was dancing with my baby in the dining room.     It was a blessing that found its way to me through colic.   When Sophie was a baby I did the same thing.    

These moments are God’s greatest gifts to me.  There was nothing close before or since.

Today, as I look at my daughters; one who’s well into the teen years, and another that is growing way too fast, I miss the colic.   I miss those moments with every ounce of me.   I think of my littlest as she struggles to accomplish some new feat, and I wish I could scoop her up and tell her it’s all right –  via Frankie.  I see my oldest, who all of sudden is too big and too cool to open up all those secret thoughts and I wish I could sway with her through the dining room.   It makes me sad to think that those days are gone.   I still look at both of them, and I see the little two year old.   I imagine I always will.

It’s the image that comes immediately to mind, when I think of a young Amy dancing with her Dad.     In that image I no longer see the addict.   I no longer see the self destructive artist.   I no longer see the train wreck.    Instead, my heart breaks a little.

Across the internet and news outlets, you hear commentators wishing that someone had helped Amy.  Absolutely.  Yet, I wish that Amy had helped herself.     You hear the criticism of the music industry that took advantage of a sick woman.   I think I agree on that too, but I wish we would also remember the many, many, many, many people who tried to help her as well.   The system, in Amy’s case, was broken.    In the end, the fact that Amy is no longer with us, declares (quite powerfully) that the system failed, her family failed, Amy failed, the music industry failed, and her fans failed.

I am also reminded that there sadly are precariously few steps between the girl in the photo with her Dad, and the final chapter of Amy’s life.    Today, as I did when I first heard the news, I will offer a prayer to God for my blessings, and also for comfort for the Winehouse family.   I will pray that others find the strength they need to battle addiction and find a way out.   

I pray that those who battle this disease find someone who will be able to make the difference.  I pray that they truly sense God’s presence in those dark alleys, hospital rooms, or hotel bathrooms.   I pray that the girl in the picture above is the girl that is remembered first and foremost… and that the world remembers that this weekend, a child of God, a child of infinite value and worth, was lost.

Lastly,  I pray for Annie and Sophie, may they never lose the spark, whose loss leads to those same dark places that Amy Winehouse found herself in. 

Together, Mitchell Winehouse and I danced with our daughters to Frank Sinatra’s “All the Way”…Maybe, in the end, that’s what needs remembering today.



When somebody loves you,

It’s no good unless he loves you all the way

Happy to be near you,

When you need someone to cheer you all the way.

Taller than the tallest tree is,

That’s how its got to feel.

Deeper than the deep blue sea is,

That’s how deep it goes – if its real.

When somebody loves you,

It’s no good unless he loves you all the way

Through the good or lean years

And for all the in-between years – come what may.

Who knows where the road will lead us,

Only a fool would say.

But if you’ll let me love you.

Its for sure, I’m gonna love you all the way – all the way.

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