“When you walk through a storm hold your head up high” … Does that conjure up an image for you?
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “Carousel“, where it originated in 1945? (per Wikipedia)
Or do you picture Andy Williams performing his version? Or Barbara Streisand? Or a bunch of association football supporters from around the world?
My daughter did a study-abroad semester in Sydney, Australia some years back. We went to a sports bar in the old section of the city on a Sunday afternoon. At one point the band struck up this song, and everybody in the house stood up, linked arms and belted it out – me included. If you have ever heard me sing, you know that it was a good thing I was drowned out by the crowd. Nevertheless, belt it out I did, with tears streaming down my cheeks. At the end, my daughter turned to me, “Mom! How do you know that song?”
“I have always known it. I don’t know how, really. I grew up with it .” (Jerry Lewis?) Plus I was in Carousel in high school. I just knew it. Sista Monica’s version is playing on my Bose where I now live in Atenas, Costa Rica, far from where I bought the CD in Santa Cruz, California. It was one of the treasured possessions that got packed in a suitcase for the new expat life in Costa Rica,
I was shocked and devastated to learn of Sista Monica’s passing on October 9, 2014. I had just given a modest donation to a foundation her sister, Charlotte, had set up; Let’s help Sista Monica give cancer the blues! It was launched on October 5, 2014. She couldn’t be gone on October 9. Impossible!
She was known as “The Lioness of the Blues”, a popular, world-renowned gospel/blues singer. My heart beat faster when on the occasional Sunday at my favorite church in Santa Cruz, the non-denominational Inner Light Ministries. I can still hear Reverend Deborah Johnson smiling into the microphone, “Hey y’all. Sista Monica in the house!”
You could feel the energy shift. I, for one, would scoot up to the edge of my seat preparing to jump up to dance once she got going. Ah, Sista – the hope and joy you brought to all.
She started a 40 person choir and took it on the road. That choir had everybody in it; Catholics, Jews, Pentecostals, Baptists, Buddhists – a cross-section just like Inner Light. She loved everybody and everybody loved her. I can still see myself standing in line for a signed CD. She looked up, smiled, and asked the correct spelling of my name. I cherish it, as it brings a warm, loving feeling to my heart.
What I didn’t know for years is that she was a Marine. Yes, a military type Marine! She joined the military right out of high school in Chicago. I’m impressed by the Marines. In those days, I doubt there were many women who made the grade. I can just see the feisty Sista holding her own!
And so, today on Veteran’s Day, I salute you, Sista Monica. I am listening to your song, “Soul Shine”, and knowing there is an Angel belting out Gospel as we live and breathe. Sista Monica, your sweet soul is shining down on us. Thank you for helping me weather the storm. Rest in peace, Angel.