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Awful Beautiful Life

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Harley Allen performing at the Station Inn, world-renowned bluegrass dive.
Image from here. 

When I went to the Bluegrass Fan Fest/Alison Krauss concert on Saturday night, they held a tribute to a recently deceased songwriter/singer/musician named Harley Allen. He had an extremely successful career as a songwriter. He wrote songs for Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley and Darryl Worley, among many others. Darryl Worley helped Harley write the song I wanted to share with you today.

I have several reasons for wanting you to share with you this song. First, Harley was born the exact year that my husband was born, and died from cancer, right about the time my husband might have died from his heart attack. Harley’s wife Debbie, and his kids were there that night at the tribute. Why does my husband still live, while Harley’s wife and kids live on to mourn the lack of Harley in their everyday life? I have absolutely no idea. But the thought made me infinitely sad, and caused me to hurt for them, a family that must move onward without a husband and a father.

From the snippets of film that they showed, precious moment’s from Harley’s life, and the stories that they shared, I know Harley loved his life: he lived pretty large, and he is deeply missed by his family, friends, and  the Nashville music community.

Cancer sucks.

When Darryl Worley got up to share this song, he said that the day he walked into the room to write for the first time with Harley, that Harley played him the chorus to this song:

“I love this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life.”

Worley said that as he listened to both the words, and the melody of that phrase, he knew the best and most difficult part of the song was already written, and told Harley so. He said, “I can’t write that song with you, because it’s already written,”. and Harley told him, “No, you’re going to help me write the verses, and we’re going to make them your own.” Which, Worley said, was exactly what they did.

And together, they turned out a really good song. But Worley was right: it’s the chorus that haunts me.

 I’ve lived long enough to know that life ain’t always sunshine and roses. Recently, I’ve had occasion to talk with a couple of friends who are in very, very difficult situations. One had her husband of 30 years walk out on her. One is stuck in a relationship where her husband behaves as if she is of little worth to him. It grieves me to think about their situations. What it would be like to think I might have to start over at this stage in my life? How could I even do that?

But those were the kind of thoughts that flashed through my mind briefly back in May. What if he dies? What if I’m left alone? What in the world will I do? I CAN’T!

We used to joke in college, saying in mournful, despondent tones: “Life is hard. And then you die.”

Well, it IS hard. And you DO die.

(Which, for the Christian, isn’t really such bad news, at all…)

But even though life is hard, I find this life-love welling up inside of me. I confess, I find it easier on October days with brilliant blue skies, refreshing breezes and low humidity, after the punishing heat of summer is over. But even in the midst of the nasty weather:

I love this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life.

Now, I know you might not be a country music fan. I’m not wild about some of the stuff that’s out there myself. But give the lyrics of this song a listen-to.

Somehow or another, it points me back to my Creator, because, well, He’s the one who gave me the gift of life. And as messed up as we are, and as much as life is full of tragedy at times, He still loves us. I can’t help but think that in appreciating this gift of life that we’ve been given, that it’s also appreciating the Giver of the gift.

So, it’s my prayer that you’ll take a moment now to appreciate the gift you’ve been given, and maybe even thank the Giver of the gift(PLEASE pardon the commercial: it’s only a few seconds. The song’s next.)