Tonight is the final awards ceremony for the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Winter Accelerator Program. It has been a challenging and very rewarding three months. Yet, I think I speak for everyone in my class when I write that this evening’s final ceremonies will be bittersweet for all of us.
A couple of weeks ago, a member of my class in the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Accelerator program passed away unexpectedly. She was the third in a series of losses in connection with members of our class and community, and her passing sent us all reeling into a spiral of grief, uncertainty, and disbelief.
Many emails were exchanged offering condolences and words of love. We also spent an hour talking about our grief and feelings of loss before our last evening class.
The passing of our class member was surreal and felt like a complete injustice for a woman who had worked so very hard for years of life to succeed in her professional dreams despite so many odds stacked against her. She never gave up. She looked for the positives and opportunities to learn from every setback. She was supportive and encouraging of every person in our class and community.
As a class, we offered to donate a portion of the award money we were competing for to her family. I was also asked if I would write a song to perform at the final ceremony for the program.
How do you both honor and say goodbye to a spirit in two and half minutes?
I had never written a song like this before, and I was not sure how to capture the life and work of this cherished member of our community in only a few words and notes.
But I set about capturing spoken words from our group. People sent photographs and emails with beautiful stories, phrases, and descriptions of our friend and fellow entrepreneur.
I often think of songwriting as similar to giving birth. Even with a story that wants to be shared, there can be many hours of labor and coaxing before it is revealed as a new entity, a song that communicates life through an arc of melodies, lyrics, rhythm, and groove.
This particular song took many days and hours to piece together. I did not know how to choose from all of the beautiful things people had shared. I did not want anyone to feel slighted if there words did not make it into the final version of the song.
The first version of the song was just under five minutes—too long. I continued working, worried about cutting out too much and losing the essence of the message.
The final cut was two and a half minutes. I shared the file with my community and received words of love and support in return. I made sure to communicate to everyone that even if there specific words were not in the song, the love they shared was a part of every single note and lyric and was felt in my own being each time I played the song.
I am nervous to play this song at the ceremony. Our classmates’ family will be there, along with nearly two hundred people.
I know that I will close my eyes and imagine my friend and fellow entrepreneur and the love from all of us that went into her song.
And I know that we will all be part of a moment in time to honor and celebrate her life and the incredibly impact she had on the world and each of us.