My daughter Ana was born on a Tuesday morning in early April 2006. Her life was ended in her first grade classroom on a Friday morning in mid-December—six years, eight months, and ten days later. Despite the efforts of many to identify and debate the issues surrounding the Sandy Hook School shooting, an awful reality remains—there has been a proliferation of heinous, senseless acts of violence in America—acts that have ravaged my family and the families of so many others across our country. Much attention has been paid to the way in which my precious Ana died, but my album attempts to paint the picture of how she lived—lovingly, faithfully, and joyfully. In a way, my recording also represents a reaction. Not a reaction to the discourse sparked by the events of December 14, 2012, but rather the reaction of a father after having witnessed a miracle—the miracle of his daughter’s beautiful life.
The songs I chose for this recording are also particularly meaningful. Ana herself is heard singing, both on “Saludos”—Spanish for “greetings—, recorded during a 2011 Christmas family gathering in Puerto Rico—and on “Come Thou Almighty King,” accompanied by her older brother from his first-year piano lesson book. Ana loved the musical Annie and would sing “Maybe” a cappella, especially on car trips. In the care is where we often heard Natalie Grant’s acoustic version of “Your Great Name” over the radio. “Ana’s Way”, “When I Come Home”, and “Little Voices” speak about Ana’s life, a father’s hope through grief, and a humble suggestion as to where we can go from here as a society. The photo of my children that appears in this article inspired the compositions “Last Summer” and “Seventh Candle,” both written in the early spring of 2014 on what should have been Ana’s seventh birthday. “Prayer is my setting of the biblical text my mom taught me as a youngster and, in turn, I taught my children at bedtime. Jackie McLean showed me the melody of “Where is Love?” in 1990, on the first day we met at the Artists Collective. I was 15 years old and decided that day music would be my life’s work.
Within my album there is an assertion that, despite the seemingly unbearable weight of loss, there is still lots of beauty all around and much to be thankful for in this life. I’m grateful that my dad reminded me of this fact in the days after Ana was killed because from that moment, my focus gradually shifted from inward to outward, eventually resulting in the album. I’m thankful for the important work of my wife Nelba initiated in creating The Ana Grace Project of Klingberg Family Centers as well as the access to the arts the Artists Collective has provided for generations of children and families. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to share this music and a bit of Ana’s beautiful life with you.
Urban Faith is grateful to Jimmy Greene for his permission to reprint these beautiful words. You can find a copy of Jimmy Greene’s album, Beautiful Life, here.