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Musician Sara Severson of Alexandria writes song with hospice patient

Severson said the lyrics of the song, which is titled “Fly Away,” are so beautiful and that she truly believes it was the Holy Spirit working through Williams and herself to create the song.

Sara Severson with hospice patient, Kirk Williams
Sara Severson, a certified music practitioner for Knute Nelson Hospice, listens to one of her hospice patients, Kirk Williams, play guitar and sing.
Contributed photo
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ALEXANDRIA — As a certified music practitioner for Knute Nelson Hospice, Sara Severson gets to share her love of music with patients who are at the end of their life.

As a songwriter and musician, she always thought it would be neat to write a song about her experiences for the terminally ill, but recently, she got to do something even better, even more meaningful.

She wrote a song with one of her hospice patients, Kirk Williams.

“To be able to say I got to write a song with my terminally ill patient is pretty amazing. Who gets to say that? Not many people,” said Severson. “It is definitely something I will remember for a very long time.”

Severson said the lyrics of the song, which is titled “Fly Away,” are so beautiful and that she truly believes it was the Holy Spirit working through Williams and herself to create the song. A song, she said, which is about hope.

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“The truth is, someday, I will fly away and someday, you will do,” she said. “I still can’t believe how quickly it all came together, just days before Kirk flew away to heaven himself.”

Williams, 72, passed away at his home in Fergus Falls on Tuesday, Feb. 8 – two days before he and Severson were going to record the song together. He died in the arms of his wife, Caryn.

How the song came to be

Through her work for Knute Nelson Hospice, Severson was assigned to be Williams’ therapeutic musician. She learned through their visits that he was a musician and the two of them immediately formed a “beautiful music bond,” she said.

At their first session, he showed her his 12-string acoustic guitar. He played and sang a couple of his original songs for her.

“He had his guitars tuned to an ‘open G’ and used this really neat slide to give it a unique sound,” said Severson. “I was immediately in awe of his talent.”

During another session, Severson said Williams was ready to share a melody he had in his head along with some lyrics that she said were really speaking to him. He asked for her guitar and started playing it right away. She said he started singing some lyrics in “his unique, raspy voice.”

Sara Severson with hospice patient, Kirk Williams
Sara Severson, a certified music practitioner for Knute Nelson Hospice, poses for a photo with Kirk Williams, a hospice patient. The two worked on a song together before he passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 8.
Contributed photo

Severson said she asked him to stop because she wanted to record him because she knew what he was playing and singing was something special. She started recording and he started playing and singing again, coming up with lyrics off the top of his head. He taught her to play the melody of the song on the guitar and then told her to take the song home and do whatever she wanted with it.

“He said many times, ‘I want this to be your song and I want the world to hear it,’” she said. “I couldn’t wait to get home to work on it. I was able to complete the song lyrics by finishing the first and second verses and writing a bridge. I didn’t change a thing with the chorus because I thought Kirk’s version was perfect.”

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After she finished the lyrics, Severson got in touch with her musician friend, Jim Anderson, who helped her record the song professionally. She said Anderson took the song to a whole new level by adding in different instruments and her own harmonies to the melody.

Severson said Williams got to hear the recording of the song and he immediately fell in love with it. He was proud of it, she said.

He had other plans

After she was done with her recording of the song, Severson said there was just one thing left she wanted to do – record Williams’ voice to add to parts of the song.

At least that was her vision.

They were set to record on Thursday, Feb. 10, but it didn’t happen.

“Sadly, I got word the Tuesday before that Kirk had passed away,” she said. “My heart broke. My vision of the song was not going to happen. Our journey of making music together was over. I guess he meant what he said when he wanted this to be my song.”

SaraSeverson.jpg
Sara Severson is not only a certified music practitioner for Knute Nelson Hospice, she performs with the group, Blonde and the Bohunk.
Contributed photo

Severson said she prayed about the song and realized that God and Williams had other plans.

In her Facebook post about the song, she said, “You see, Kirk wanted this to be my song. He wanted me to get this out to all of you. He wanted you all to listen to this song, reflect on your life passing by and enjoy the beauty that exists in all of us. He wanted this song to bring hope to those of you who have lost loved ones and know that you are not alone. They are with you and up there waiting for the day when you’ll fly away with them too.”

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Her song was done after all and now it can be heard by everyone as it is available through YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music and just about any other streaming service . The video available on YouTube includes the recording Severson did of Williams, so people can hear his voice, too. It also includes the lyrics.

On Saturday, Feb. 19, Severson got the opportunity to sing their song at his funeral, which she said was an amazing honor.

“To stand up in front, looking out at his beautiful wife, Caryn, family and friends and sing his words to them is something I feel so grateful for,” she said. “It was hard. It was raw. The emotions were so real. But I felt his presence, which gave me courage. I thought of him and our amazing friendship the entire time I sang. There wasn't a dry eye in the room by the end of the song...including mine. Music heals.”

A lot of emotion

Caryn Williams said having her husband’s melody and lyrics come to life in the song keeps his last message alive in her heart as if he were saying the words to her in person, which at this point is comforting, she said.

“It also breaks my heart at the same time because the song was a huge part of what was left for me to remember him by and a part of me wants him here, not just the memory of him,” she said. “The logical part of me loves it because I know that as far as memories go, this is a very precious one that carries so much of his real person and his message and belief in the life after we fly away. But the emotional part is broken in half every time I listen to it in these early stages. It’s comforting and heartbreaking at the same time.”

Caryn said she feels blessed that God gave the words, message and melody to her husband and then to Severson. She said the song will mean the world to her for the rest of her life.

“It was God’s answer to Kirk’s prayer. God bless Sara, she is an angel,” she said.

FlyAway.png
This is the image used in the video of the song, "Fly Away," by Sara Severson and Kirk Williams.
Contributed photo

A love for life

Caryn shared a bit about her husband. He loved life, this Earth and thought deeply about things. She said he had a wonderful sense of humor that came out in everything he did. Her husband was not only a son, grandson, brother, husband, father, uncle, grandpa and friend, she said he was an artist, amazing musician, intelligent entertainer and the life of each gathering no matter where it was held.

“He was my best friend and soulmate,” she said. “He loved our entire family and our friends…It was all about life for him – all the blessings, mistakes, regrets, forgiveness, joy, beauty and thankfulness…He loved so deeply. He fought so hard and bravely to stay because he loved so deeply.”

Related Topics: NEWSMDMUSICALEXANDRIA
Celeste Edenloff is the special projects lead and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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