Dear Eric Church,
In the wake of all things evil this week, and that bad actor who has no name; I wanted you to know a few things. Because seeing you broken breaks me. I think you need to know about the lives you’ve saved. Specifically the only one I can speak for, my own.
I have been a fan for about 5 – 6 years. I won’t allege that I was there in the beginning. The first time I heard you sing live, I felt a chill that scared me. A chill that said, something tragic is here because no legends live unblemished. It was like hearing Joplin and knowing, this just can’t be. I remember saying that to the people I was with. This is a living legend and someone should bubble wrap this man.
2013 was the beginning of a long and painful road for me and at the helm of my salvation, was your music. But little did I know it was only the start.
In 2015, I contracted a food poisoning, which led to a deadly bacterial infection, and that infection was misdiagnosed. My liver, pancreas, heart and intestines were failing in the hospital from September to December of that year – until a miracle doctor saved my life. I had even coded and got ordered into ICU because my organs were so shot. My heart rate was a steady 171 lying down. By all accounts, I should not have lived.
During this time, all I wanted was your music. Your voice. I would lie down in church pews (on the days I could walk) and pray and I would put your music on and make an active choice to keep fighting. I was internally bleeding, I lost 25 pounds, I hadn’t had solid food in months and said goodbye to half my head of hair. And I was only 33. Still, I would make a joke on social media daily, “Can Eric Church come sing to me?”
In 2016, I gradually got better. I powered through a lot of PTSD and learned how to live again. How to eat again. How to smile again. And yet again, I had your music.
I began to champion your artistry everywhere, partly because I’m passionate about what I like and partly because I have a PR background that can sometimes make me forcefully annoying. I didn’t care. I actually had friends disconnect because I played/posted too much of my “imaginary boyfriend.” And to them I said, “that’s damn rock and roll.”
I had been in a relationship for nine years and at this point was newly married. I wish I could say it then all turned to a fairy tale but this was really when I entered the fiery pits of Hell. My partner battled addiction and for a long time lost that fight. What was supposed to be white and filled with honey&moon turned black and corrosive. If you know anything about opiates and the victims they feed on; it’s a whole lot of lies and abuse for their families and loved ones.
I got in my car and put on your music and drove. From New York to Los Angeles, I drove. I left my life and love behind with the strength of only your music. (And a little Johnny Cash.)
In LA, I had nothing, at first. I bought a record player. I quite literally lived the lyrics of Record Year – I quite possibly still am.
This past year has still thrown me my tests. The ones I had to prove I am “a scrapper and a clawer.” The ones that are unmentionable. The ones that really made me question if I wanted to go on living.
I decided to join a fan group on Facebook. Aptly titled, Holdin’ Our Own. I’ve been a member for a while now. And last weekend, I decided to write to that group the story of how you saved my life, because I don’t open up and I’m always the tough one. The irony, is that as I was typing it out at 10:30pm on Sunday, shots were being fired blindly into a crowd. Even more ironic, was that I was supposed to be in that crowd.
I had tickets for months, since pre-sale, all because I couldn’t imagine you being a 4-hour drive away and me not going. I was supposed to be there alone. And my ticket got cancelled the day before. The vendor said my seller decided not to sell. All of my arrangements were cancelled nine hours before leaving. My hotel, dog boarding, and so on.
I was supposed to be there and for some reason I wasn’t. Which then made me crawl out of my skin. Was my ticket seller alive? Was she a mom? Was she a she? I couldn’t come to terms with my not being there to potentially take a bullet over someone’s mom.
Because I felt I had no purpose. I’ve felt this way for a while now, even though I write for a living and sometimes think my words are my purpose. How could I be here and 58 people living happier than me not? And above this, I didn’t have to witness the torment that will cause so many PTSD. I’ve lived through PTSD, I could take it. Pick me not them.
Only then a funny thing happened… My fan group began to raise money from the Church Choir. They put together a lottery pool of signed merch of yours. They tirelessly made t-shirts and jewelry and they raised thousands and thousands of dollars. And I piped in and said, “I want to do more. I want to do everything I can.”
And I did.
It was in this group of people, that I can honestly say my life was saved. They are the most unselfish humans I’ve ever known and they came together over a love of you. I have never seen fans so dedicated to their chief. This group became my family. And even though we lost 2 beautiful souls from the group that week; we gained the perspective of what it means to be country strong. To be a good f&*$ing human being. To chip in and not duck out. To fight and not flee. To be a neighbor. To be a shoulder. To be an ear.
This letter was published by Whiskey Riff and shared close to 3000 times shortly after penning it. I moved mountains to get it into your hands, from jumping the barrier into the pit in Paso Robles to buying Driver a few beers in Nashville and hoping he’d pass it along.
Nevertheless, I realize now it wasn’t finished.
After all the coincidence-laden roads that unraveled in 2017, I made another crazy hearted move: I picked it all up again and threw it in a Uhaul marked for Nashville.
Sight unseen, I signed a lease on a recommendation from a fan group member. Surely this was the start of all good things to come, right? I mean right off the bat I scored a placement in the American Songwriter lyric contest and your face was on the cover at the time I entered. My luck was changing.
Except, God tends to have plans we don’t know about. On October 10, 2018 I landed in Vanderbilt hospital with another bacterial infection. I spent most of October fighting for my life through an acute intestinal infection and if you can believe the week I got out, I got car jacked in broad daylight in Downtown Nashville. The perpetrator took my purse, meds, phone and well, car. Talk about a rock bottom.
Since it was the day before Thanksgiving and I now had no phone, wallet or transportation…I tried reaching out to “my people” in the group that got me to Nashville but, the group had ballooned since Route 91. What was a tight knit group now reached a 9,000 member bandwagon and not everyone was kind anymore. After a few bad eggs new to the fray made some unsavory comments about the car jacking, I wound up leaving the group I had been a part of since the beginning. My “people” now gone. That night was the first time I ever thought about ending my life. But, if I had learned one thing from you, it was to “Chief on.”
Only weeks later, I relapsed with the original infection that almost took my life in 2015. I spent New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop from quarantine at Vanderbilt – unable to even step into the hallway. I lost the subsequent months to Vanderbilt, with a combined total of 11 days in quarantine – which is a lot like being a POW. You literally are not allowed to do anything. People come in in space suits and my only eating was through IV or shakes.
Still, I Chiefed On. I had read about your near death blood clot and how you persevered. How you performed your tour on anti-inflammatory steroids (which I’m on right now and have no idea how you did this) and how you looked your own mortality in the face and told it to go to Hell. How you battled through your brothers sudden passing and rose higher. This is why you are a hero. Your music, your voice, your complete inability to remember your own lyrics but laugh it off with a smile and your rise above adversity has given me a bravery I never knew I had.
Today, I am recovering. And I have made a conscious decision to fight, to rise and to win – with or without anyone. I have music. And that’s all I ever needed. Thank you for all that you do.