eva cassidy


I love antique shops, which probably means that I'm getting old. I love digging through old junk that at one time had been important to someone, junk that can only hope to be important to you so that it won't sit in a musty old shop for ages and ages or end up in a landfill. I like the smell of old books even though it makes me sneeze.I like pilfering through those old books until I find one that's rare, beautiful or an absolute must-read. I love finding something unique and whimsical to add to my decor or jewelry collection. Okay, I really dig antique shops. You get the picture.

So, when dad asked if Brandon and I would like to do some antique shopping on the way home from Ponca, Arkansas a couple of Fridays ago, I couldn't help but follow. We drove the winding, always sickening road from Ponca to the little town of Jasper, nestled neatly on both sides of the Buffalo River. By the time we stopped, I was wondering if anything we could find would be worth the nausea I felt. I stumbled out of Brandon's giant GMC truck into the mild Ozark heat, and crossed the street to join my parents. Brandon brought Micah, and together we entered a little shop with a very promising title, "Emma's Museum of Junk." That title is promising for three reasons. One, I've always liked the name Emma, and if I ever have a little girl, she may very well bear the name. Two, that is one of Jane Austen's best books. And three, the sign says "junk," which means we should be safe from the outlandish prices of more pretentious old junk stores. No "Emma's Fine Antiques" here. We found a junk museum. Right on, Dad.

One step over the threshold, and I immediately liked the place. The inside looked like a general store from the turn of the century.(That would be the 20th century.) The walls, ceiling and floor were all made from beautiful, grooved wood given character by time and business. The merchandise was in organized disarray. The faint smell of must delivered by the books and antique clothing and the sound of classical music set the perfect tone as I shopped. It also helped to settle my stomach. I was right. The prices were good. There was a lot to look at, and I took my time. I found a lovely necklace made from silver beads and a newer copy of the The Secret Life of Bees. As I continued thumbing through the stacks of books and magazines, the music changed.

A voice I had never heard, but had always wanted to hear drifted out of the speakers. The voice was perfect--clear, pure, poignant and beautiful. The songs were from several different genres, but all comfortable and familiar even if I didn't really know them. I found myself looking over the store's contents again so that I could listen to more of the music. I wasn't the only one who noticed and appreciated the beauty of the voice. Others in our group were whispering, "Is that Sarah McLachlan?" I answered them, "Definitely not."

When it was obvious that my group was finished shopping and wanted to leave, I approached the register to make my purchases. Behind the counter stood a woman who obviously enjoyed her work. She was talking with a man who was likely a local friend. He stood on my side of the counter. They both had an aura about them that whispered, "mountain hippy." I liked them both immediately. I've always liked hippies. Before I even handed her my items, I spat out, "Who is the singer?" She grinned at me, and shot a knowing look to her friend.

"Her name is Eva Cassidy," she said, "and everyone asks about her."

She told me a little about the singer. After my own research, I must say here that much of her information was inaccurate, but the part I took away with me was that Cassidy had died in her early 30's of cancer, and she never "made it" before her death. Her music has been promoted posthumously by her family. That information cut at me because here was my idea of the perfect voice, and she would never know on this earth how much it could have been appreciated. I branded the singer's name to my memory, mentally vowed I would buy the album I had heard in the store and paid for my finds which now seemed minuscule in light of my musical find. The man, the owner's friend, said to me, "It's rare when someone young like you appreciates good music." I smiled and said, "I'm not that young. I turned 26 yesterday. But I have been trained to appreciate good music." He invited me to his son's music gig later that night. I had to decline as I was leaving town. I smiled at both of them and took my leave.

As soon as I was home, I researched the singer. I discovered that she had done several recordings, but did not promote them because she never cared for fame. Eva Cassidy is described as having been introverted. She would play for family, friends and small gatherings, but did not have the makings of the international star her voice could have helped her become. She died at the age of 33 of melanoma, and sang her final song in public only weeks before her death.

I wax overly philosophical now because I listened to her album, "Songbird," last night while I cooked fajitas. It's weird to say an album has the power to change a life, but if it's possible, this album has changed mine. It's that good. I wept as I chopped last night, and it wasn't the onions. It's because of her knack for selecting good music to sing, her stirring interpretations of familiar songs and the passion laced into her vocals. So, I had to write about it and let you all know about this treasure that I found in a junk museum. You may laugh, but I believe that destiny led me to this singer. Those of you who know me, know that I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Father of all destiny.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow or turning." James 1:17

As I mentioned, my birthday was the day before I found out about this great singer. Because I had also been given enough Itunes gift cards to buy all of her albums, this ordained discovery is truly a gift that will keep on giving.

And I call that serendipity.