SPOTLIGHT: Julie Miller on Friendship, Faith, and What We Have in Our Hearts
Photo by Kate York
EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked Buddy and Julie Miller, No Depression’s Spotlight artists for June 2019, for an essay letting us in on their lives as their new album, Breakdown on 20th Ave. South — their first album together in a decade — was being made. Julie offered this heartfelt remembrance of a friend and describes how her faith and music helped her navigate through a difficult time, themes that also appear on Breakdown on 20th Ave. South, out June 21 on New West Records. Read the typed version of her essay here, or see her words in her own handwriting, as she created them, in the photos below. You can read our feature story about the Millers and their new album here.
Maggie’s been hit by a bus. In NYC. And she’s not going to live. She’s just on tubes for now.
Maggie?! Maggie’s lived in NYC all her life and she’s been hit by a bus at 80 years old?! That’s almost as strange as my brother being killed by lightning.
“God what should I do?” Over the last decades I’ve had somewhat of a running conversation with Him. He’s very smart.
I hear, feel, wafting into my soul, “go to New York.”
I’m sick, can’t find credit cards, ID, money, or medicine, but I go to the airport and SOMEHOW, SOMEONE got me on the plane.
In my wild years, Maggie used to come hear us play and she would dance and be my friend. She never knew how much she meant to me.
As years passed, we reacquainted and I was moved to write a song about her on Broken Things.
Maggie had grown up an orphan in a convent. She’d been spirited away from the Spanish Revolution as a child by a relative and dropped on the steps of the nunnery.
But Maggie would never speak to anyone about her past. Not even her family. Mysterious, quietly aching, Maggie.
She was so vivacious and open and loving to everyone. This news of the bus was too sad to take in.
But even though she was clinically deceased, I felt God tell me to go see her. So off from Nashville, unprepared, I went.
When I got there, her relatives, my friends, were sort of confused at my presence. I mean, I wasn’t THAT close to Maggie. But I’d felt The Spirit move me. And as the song says, “when The Lord gets ready, you got to move.” So I did.
They let me go alone into Maggie’s hospital room by myself and pray for her. To see her was so shocking. She was this raven-haired beauty whose head had been knocked much further around than a head could normally go. She was obviously gone. But I prayed anyway. “Lord, you know where Maggie’s soul hovers right now and you can talk with her all about anything that was left undone with you and complete Maggie’s homecoming.” I prayed so hard. I prayed in the Spirit. Then I went out and saw my friends and they got me a room at the hospital hotel.
A half an hour later they knocked on my door. “We want you there.” (When they pulled the plug). Soberly, I went and joined them. Everyone was just being sad and waiting.
I was praying. As I looked at who was there, I realized most everybody knows old Carter Family gospel songs or other old gospel songs.
“Would it be OK if we surrounded Maggie’s bed and sang?” OK.
We began to sing and the tears began to fall. We were on about the 4th song when suddenly, before my eyes, I saw an actual miracle. Slowly, but steadily, the arms of a “brain dead” woman began to rise up, up, up, till they were straight up. As if she were reaching for her Heavenly Father. It blew all our minds. I mean, praying for something is one thing — seeing it as an impossible thing that’s happening right before your eyes is another. We continued to sing and her arms went back down again.
It was soon after, the family followed her desires not to live on life support, and the plugs were undone.
It was a time of mixed emotions. It was a time of God being close to the brokenhearted.
Back in my room, getting ready for bed, I cut my toe on the bed leg. The next day I couldn’t put my shoes on. All I had were some velvet slippers I’d brought as a gift for one of my friends. So I had to wear them all the next day.
I’m not sure when this memory came back to me — but within a day or two it did. Years earlier, in an intense spiritual situation in a prayer group, a stranger handed me a piece of paper. Just a teenager. But she was a young prophet apparently. The paper said, “It will be like you are wearing velvet slippers where you are going.” I put the paper in my Bible, presuming to know what it meant. I thought it meant something about not being too abrasive as a Christian or something. But as I have learned from life with God, He so often speaks on several levels!
When I left NY to come back to Nashville, the taxi ride seemed to drive through a much less populated city without Maggie in it. It was a strange feeling.
Death takes your mind to places it doesn’t normally travel. Like “dust to dust.” The scientists discovered we are really made of stardust.
“Ashes to ashes.” Notre Dame burned today. The news was all about the magnificent building. I thought about all the abandoned abuse victims and how they were on fire inside. … Well, that’s another story.
What prompted my choice of writing subject was what my dear Jewish father-in-law said when I told him Maggie’s story. He said, with his hand to his heart, you have told us, so now WE have this in our hearts. But you must write this down so everyone can know and have it in their hearts.
So, thank you Bernie. And happy birthday.