I have always been surrounded by music. Being born in Halifax and having lived on the east coast, I can tell you it's a big part of the Maritime culture and lifestyle. In September I had the great honour of meeting a musician I had been listening to for 20 years, Sean McCann of the band Great Big Sea. At the time, we were both speaking at an event along with another great Canadian, Tiffany Rose. I was so excited and humbled by the opportunity to meet this person who had inspired great happiness through out my childhood.
I stood up there in front of hundreds of community members at the London Recovery Breakfast, bared my soul, shared my courage, and managed to inspire someone. Tiffany, who'd been sitting at the same table as me, was the person I'd inspired. She shared her story of strength and tenacity, and she also inspired the person who happened to be the next speaker, Sean McCann. Sean got up on stage and shared tales of his days of alcoholism, including a tour bus leaving with out him in it and endless Friday nights. Three years prior to the Recovery Breakfast, Sean had gotten sober, and Mondays were Mondays again. Life was real, and he could see and feel it. He also told a story that he had never told publicly before -- in fact, the only person who knew about it was his wife.
In front of hundreds of people, Sean told of his own victimization at the hands of a priest when he was just 15 years old. The room fell silent as everyone listened to his story. Telling that story took true courage, and we were all inspired by it. It was an amazing experience to witness. To think that I had a small part in making him comfortable enough to disclose his experience of sexual abuse was a moment I will never forget. It all became clear to me in that moment: speaking out helped someone. It was a chain reaction: former NHL all-star Theo Fleury did it for me when he spoke, helping ease me into sharing my pain. After telling my story, I was able to help someone with theirs. I know that when Sean shared his story, he helped someone too. To help someone gain strength from pain is an indescribable feeling, and it's why I do what I do.
I got Sean's number that day, and a true friendship developed. We checked in with each other weekly, and Sean inspired me to keep playing guitar, something I have just picked up in recent years (no, hockey isn't my only outlet!). Playing music has become a way for me to learn, grow, write, and experience something inside my body that I call "serendipity" -- finding something without even looking for it. I started to play around with some lyrics and talked to Sean about helping me write a song for the upcoming I'm 1in5 tour across Canada to promote mental wellness. I was very apprehensive about sending these lyrics to Sean. Nonetheless, I wrote them all down and sent them to him.
Just a few days later, Sean sent me what he had put together. For those two minutes and 27 seconds, I was in awe. I was overwhelmed with pure humility. Sean had used the words I had sent him to create an amazing song that showcases all of his musical talent. I listened to it on repeat for hours and was still as amazed as the first time I had heard it.
Not too long after that was my 30th birthday. Sean happened to be on tour with his "Help Your Self" album, and I went to see him play with fellow musician Matt Wells. It was a great night, and about half way through Sean's set, he looked over at me and told the audience it was my birthday. When he started into the birthday song, Matt presented me with a very, very chocolatey cake. It was a great moment to feel loved -- almost like having a 140 person birthday party at the London Music Club. He strummed his guitar a few times, and started speaking about the impact I have had on his journey, and how a few months ago I had sent him some lyrics. The flood of emotions started as Sean performed "Strength From Pain" for the first time live. I was in shock that this was happening. It was the song that he had sent me, the song I wrote the lyrics to. It was being played in front of over 100 people. I will always cherish that moment.
The song represents life on life's terms, and the idea of gaining strength from whatever pain you may have in life. I heard a long time ago that "pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional". I want this song to inspire people to never give up on life. When the clear blue sky comes falling down like rain, take your strength from pain.
From the second we met and shook hands, I have thought the world of Sean McCann. His courage is second to none, his resilience to overcome is beyond measure, and I'm so very fortunate to have such a fine example of strength from pain in my life. Thank you so much again, Sean, for this incredible gift.
To hear Sean's new album "Help Yourself" visit his website at http://www.seanmccannsings.com