Just a thought… Feet on ground, heart in hand, facing forward, be yourself. [Jann Arden song “Good Mother”]
One of the pieces of news to come out over the holidays, and perhaps you missed it, was the list of names of those who will be honoured this year with the Order of Canada. Among many that you know is a person I just love: Jann Arden.
This singer/songwriter from Alberta has been as much a part of the musical landscape of this country as almost anyone alive today, and yet, it’s more than her multiple Junos and tremendous book sales that have made her an outstanding choice for this honour. Let me share with you a couple of personal thoughts about this woman.
When I think about Jann, I smile. Her sense of the absurd and her way of putting her thoughts into words – profound, profane and both – as a writer, inspired me 14 years ago to start journaling here for you. And thank goodness for that: without this journal, I’d have never had a way to stay in touch with you through the good times and bad, the times on the air and off. Thank you, Jann!
She parlayed those blogs into bestselling books and then, more recently, her writing forged a deeper connection with so very many as she told of her mother’s descent into the hell that is Alzheimer’s disease. Once again, just as she had in earlier telling of being raped and of her own challenges with addiction, she was helping countless others to heal through her openness and unflinching honesty.
Jann and I have sat side by side on a stage with tears in our eyes as we silently connected through our losses of different kinds; a sisterhood that is shared, not only in our birth year, but in two healing hearts.
I want to share one more glimpse into who Jann Arden is. It’s a story I wasn’t going to tell, but I will today with the absolute pledge that I cannot – will not – ask Jann again for the favour that she did in December.
A woman who used to listen to me on CHFI reached out. Because she sensed I had a friendship with Jann, she wondered if I could contact her in hopes that Jann might get in touch with a friend of hers. This friend was going through the same awful challenges as Jann: her mother, too, was living with Alzheimer’s. The listener told me her friend followed Jann on Twitter, read everything she wrote and was an avid fan. Could I possibly get Jann to reach out to her?
I hesitated to direct message Jann, as I knew how very full her plate was with Christmas concerts, a full travel schedule and book signings. But I did, first gently warning the woman who reached out to me that this might not happen. But Jann messaged me back immediately asking for the contact information.
A week passed, and then two. The listener messaged me that they’d not heard from Jann and that her friend was very much looking forward to it. And so I nudged Jann, apologizing profusely for bothering her in the midst of this busiest of times. Sure enough, the next day she made the phone call and they talked for ten minutes.
While I was thanked profusely by both Toronto-area women for making this happen, I was adamant that I really had very little to do with it. It was Jann. It is Jann. And it illustrates perfectly why she deserves to be honoured: for her honesty, her generosity and her huge, kind heart.