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She Walked Away

There is a song by Barlow Girl called “She Walked Away” that Sound of Faith has started covering occasionally when we play live. It’s a very emotional song that is basically a modern-day version of the parable of the Prodigal Son. At Sound of Faith’s last gig at the Kickin’ Bean, Jennifer sat alone on the stage, just her and the piano and sang a simple but powerful version of this song. What made it powerful to me was the memory, one that I haven’t thought of in a long time, which came to mind while she sang. It’s my own memory of when “She Walked Away”.

I don’t remember exactly what the year was, but I would have been about 9 years old, give or take a year, so it was the mid-80’s. My sister, who is 8 years my elder so about 17 at the time, had been doing some pretty odd things that day. I don’t remember why I was home instead of in school but I would guess it was probably spring break. My sister was supposed to be home watching after me while my parents were at work, but she obviously had other things on her mind. At one point, she carried her Casio keyboard and a stereo out to her car and left for a while before coming back. Late that afternoon she left again. She did not return home before my parents got home from work. I remember thinking she was going to be in big trouble, but I didn’t really grasp what was going on.

When my mom and dad got home, I knew something was really wrong. I don’t know if my sister had called them, or if it was just the letter she had left behind, but she had basically decided that she had had enough of following my parent’s rules and had decided to strike it out on her own. She had left a letter for our parents as I said, but it is one I never read. I don’t recall if I tried and wasn’t allowed to, or if I just didn’t realize its importance.  I do remember it was more than one page though, because the memory that came to mind as Jennifer sang was of my mom and dad, sitting at the dining room table, each of them holding a page of the letter she had left, and crying. I knew at the time that they were pretty angry but I wasn’t mature enough to understand all of the emotions that must have really been attacking them at that moment. As a parent now, I can only imagine the worst.

You see, my sister didn’t just run away to a friend’s house or out into the woods or anything like that. No, she had pawned the keyboard and stereo in order to buy a one-way bus ticket from Charlotte, North Carolina to Anaheim, California where a friend of hers had recently moved (a friend that my parents were not very fond of for various reasons).  I don’t believe that my sister had actually told my parents where she was going, but from calling various friends’ parents they were able to figure it out that evening.

The next few days were a blur. I can recall my dad talking to my sister on the phone and arguing. I remember my sister saying it was a 3-day bus trip to California and that she had seen snow on the cactuses on the side of the road. I had thought that was really cool, especially since it was spring. I remember that for whatever reason, my sister’s friend’s family would not let her stay there and that she had agreed to come home. My dad had wired her the money for the bus ticket back, which hurt a lot since our family had pretty much always lived from paycheck to paycheck.

About a week after the ordeal had started, my sister was to arrive back home. That is one of the only times I intentionally skipped school in my life. I told my parent’s that I didn’t feel well and they let me stay home, even though my dad later told me he knew I wasn’t sick. Even as a 9 year old, I remember the love and relief that I felt when my sister walked back through the door. Even though I was the little bother and my sister and I had not always gotten along well, I had truly missed her and was glad she was home.

So as a parent of three children now, it makes me very emotional to think about going through that same situation as a father instead of as a brother. On top of the anger that I knew my parents had for their rebellious child, I am certain that there was a great deal of fear and hurt that was also there. As a parent, you want to do whatever is right and good for your kids. You want to keep them safe and teach them all of the correct ways to do things. To have that ripped out of your hands by the one you care so much about, to have your guardianship stripped away and your loved one forcing themselves upon a world that they are probably not ready for… Well, it would scare this father to death.

I cried while listening to Jennifer’s rendition of the song, because I was imagining what my father must have felt, pure and simple, and at the end of the song, I said a little prayer that I will never have to go through the same thing.

Barlow Girl
She Walked Away

She couldn’t take one more day
Home was more her prison now
Independence called out
She had to get it

A fight was all she needed
To give her reason
She slammed the door with no goodbye
And knew that it was time

Now she’s driving too fast
She didn’t care to glance behind
And through her tears she laughed
It’s time to kiss the past goodbye

I’m finally on my own
Don’t try to tell me no
There’s so much more for me
Just watch what I will be

She walked away
Couldn’t say why she was leaving
She walked away
She left all she had believed in
She walked away

Not a day goes by
For the one she’s left behind
They’re always asking why
And thoughts of her consume their mind

God please let her know
The love we tried to show
We’d promise anything
If you’d just bring her home

She walked away
Couldn’t say why she was leaving
She walked away
She left all she had believed in
She walked away

Tell her we love her
Tell her she’s wanted
One more thing God
Tell her please come home
Please come home

She walked away
Couldn’t say why she was leaving
She walked away
She left all she had believed in
She walked away

She walked away
Couldn’t say why she was leaving
She walked away
She left all she had believed in

The choice is yours alone now
Tell me how this story ends

Luke 15:20-24

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

  1. vicki
    July 26, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    It is amazing how we are able to see things in looking back and understand them with such a deeper perspective as an adult, especially when we have kids of our own. Gives you a new compassion for our parents, I think, and can totally break your heart with the knowledge. Thanks for sharing, Mike ~ V

  2. July 26, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    That’s a beautiful post, Mike. I’m glad I got to read it. I know it’s hard to share some things – but I’m glad you did.

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