It was announced July 26 that Sinead O’Connor has died. An artist who journeyed in her own faith, struggles and personal growth right alongside us.
Her 1990 album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got was the first CD I ever listened to. I fell in love with Sinead right then. As a 13-year-old teenager, I experienced the power and emotion of her voice and the beautifully painful song lyrics. This was a woman with her own mind, although I would not recognize that until later, until I was older and seeking my own voice. Nevertheless, I intuitively understood its value and beauty, and it pierced my heart. I never will forget that moment.
Looking back to that moment in time, I can see I was beginning to understand the power of art and — equally important — my own freedom.
Sinead has provided the soundtrack to my life, my freedom. Her raw challenge was to live, to question, to love and to risk it all.
Like Sinead, I think a strong sense of self — given to me by God — led me to want to be free, to shape the contours of my own life. To have power over each small but important-to-the-whole, decision. To speak words into existence, to place paint on a canvas to tell a story, to lift my voice in song, to create — is consequential. I exist and I am powerful.
This power and freedom are from God. Our Creator God somehow makes something out of nothing in the beginning, creates us. When we make music, poetry or paintings, we do the same — as we hold our knowledge, hurt, anger, love and faith in our hearts. We can create with God, because of God.
“Sinead has provided the soundtrack to my life, my freedom.”
Very often, having something to say, to create, is challenging to ourselves and others. We can pay a high price, as I’m sure Sinead experienced throughout her life of having a voice. I have much empathy with her open battle with mental health because of my own family history of mental health issues. It doesn’t escape me that many women have been thrown away and dismissed as unvaluable by accusations of poor mental health or hysteria. Thankfully, the world was able to know Sinead through her life, her music and activism.
Let it not be lost that this was a woman of valor, a freedom fighter, a creator and a mother.
My heart will be forever pierced by her art. She taught me how to have a voice even when many refused to listen, and for that I am grateful.
Julia Goldie Day is an ordained minister within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and lives in Memphis, Tenn. She is a painter and proud mother to Jasper, Barak and Jillian. Learn more at her website or follow her on socials @JuliaGoldieDay.