03.19.21 – Singing in Prison

Journal entry by Vicki Bunke 

Most of us have heard the saying, “The teacher learns more than the student.” How true.

Last month, I, along with Caroline, Dr. Wasilewski and several others, participated in an interview. One question I was asked was, “What is the greatest lesson you learned from Grace?” I drew a blank. I wasn’t sure how to answer or how to choose or which lesson learned was worthy of being deemed “the greatest,” so I said something like, “There are so many. Let me think about that.”

Not surprising to those who know her, although Caroline woke up early, took the day off from school, and drove with me to the hotel, she was not able to participate in the interviews. It was just too upsetting. Too difficult. Too painful to share her stories and memories of Grace.

Not surprising to those who know her, Dr. Wasilewski immediately volunteered to drive Caroline home while I was being interviewed.

Not surprising to those who know of Caroline and Dr. Wasilewski’s special friendship, the two of them had a great time on the drive home discussing their plans to go parasailing (without me) after our open water Swim Across America event in Kiawah Island later this summer.

And not surprising to those who know me, on my drive home from the interview I was consumed by thoughts of Caroline and feelings of regret that she must experience life as an unintended only child. I also thought about how proud I am of Caroline’s strength and resolve and willingness to continue to pursue life and seek joy despite her personal pain. And I was reminded of the words she spoke at Grace’s funeral, and it was at that moment that I realized what my greatest lesson learned has been.

I’ve had two teachers – Grace and Caroline – and the greatest lesson they both taught me is how to sing in prison.

I first learned of this idea – singing in prison – as a child attending Vacation Bible School where we sang the song, “Paul and Silas Bound in Jail.” It tells the story of Acts 16 when Paul and Silas  were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel. Their backs had been ripped open with a whip, and at midnight, in the most unsanitary of conditions, in a filthy environment, with their legs stretched apart in shackles causing excruciating pain, Paul and Silas held a worship service.

Fortunately, most of us will not face the extreme circumstances encountered by Paul and Silas or be confronted by a terminal cancer prognosis at the age of 14 or deliver a tribute for your older sister and best friend at the age of 13. But every single one of us will face hardship and experience pressure of some kind. When life’s pressures were applied, prayer and praise is what came out of Paul and Silas. When life’s pressures were applied, I watched Grace and continue to watch Caroline sing through the darkness. Grace’s prison was her illness while Caroline’s is her grief. Yet, since they were and are willing to sing after midnight, just like Paul and Silas, Grace and Caroline were and are able to break free of their own life shackles.

And although Caroline might not have been capable of sharing her thoughts and memories of Grace in the form of an interview last month, she is able and excited to grab her swimsuit and wonderful friends and join me on The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour 2021.

The first stop of the tour is Tampa on May 8th which happens to be Mother’s Day weekend. I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend Mother’s Day weekend than by swimming a mile in the Tampa Bay alongside Dr. Wasilewski and many others. This event and day will provide me with a perfect opportunity to remember Grace and honor Caroline, my greatest life teachers. I am uncertain what the other Swim Across America swimmers will be thinking that day, but I know what I will be thinking. With each stroke through the water, I will be thinking how grateful I am to Grace and Caroline for teaching and showing me how to live out that Bible story I sang about as a child and reminding me that it is only by consciously choosing to sing and praise through the darkness that we can truly be set free.

Caroline’s tribute to Grace was very special and beautiful and can be viewed here: Caroline’s Tribute to Grace

If you feel led to help improve treatments and outcomes for others who are trying to sing through their darkness, please consider supporting and/or joining our Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour/Team. You won’t regret it.

Here is the link: The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour 2021

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” (Angela Schwindt)

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