The summer of 2002, right before I went off to college, my little sister, Aly, and I spent hours in her room playing and singing worship songs together. It was our favorite thing to do. Aly had taught herself to play my guitar a year earlier while I was in Africa for several months, and her passion for learning and playing and singing new songs was still going strong. She and I were very close, and loved our “sister worship time” so much, that we were saddened by the thought of not being able to sing together as often. To remedy our sadness, we had the idea to record ourselves singing our favorite worship songs so we still could “be together” and “sing together”, even when we were miles apart.
We immediately talked to our dad (who has been an audio engineer since long before either of us were born) and asked if he would set up some of his equipment and record us playing and singing. Soon he was as excited about the project as we were, and he set up mics and stools in the front room of our house (the room with hardwood floors and the very best acoustics). We recorded the whole thing in one night, and within a few days, my dad had mixed it and made several copies. My sister and I listened to it often while we were apart and we gave a few copies to friends and family, but it didn’t go much further than that.
Now that Aly is gone, our worship CD is more precious than ever. Nearly a decade ago, we created something that would bond us forever, having no idea what the future would bring. Now we can still “be together” and “sing together” from different sides of eternity, and that is a gift I will be forever thankful for.
The most powerful track on the CD has become “I Can Only Imagine”, which Aly and I played and sang for my grandmother just a few weeks before she died of cancer. We also played it, through tears, at her funeral. We included it on our CD in her honor and Aly sang lead. On February 15th 2011, our version of “I Can Only Imagine” was played at the end of Aly’s memorial service. Her strong, confident voice rang out, “I can only imagine when that day comes and I find myself standing in the Son.” A standing room only crowd of hundreds of people packed the auditorium and hundreds more watching online listened intently as Aly sang, “Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of you be still? ... I can only imagine…” A sense of awe fell over the crowd as we all realized that she doesn’t have to imagine any more. She’s living it. And if I know Aly… she danced.
This CD is a gift from my family to yours. Download it, make copies, send links to friends, share it with whoever you know who might be encouraged or comforted by it. Thanks for listening.
The local paper wrote a story about Aly's special memorial. You can read it here tinyurl.com/AlySpecialMemorial
Just days before Aly stepped into eternity, I shot this footage of her talking about her faith while in a hospital bed at Vanderbilt tinyurl.com/AlyBedsideFaith