In early June, the country music world wrapped their virtual arms around Granger Smith after his youngest son River died tragically at the family’s Texas home.
Now, almost six weeks later, Smith is opening up about the healing process, and how much music is a part of it. On what he calls a special night, he made the eight-minute video to update his fans, friends and family about how he and his wife Amber and their two older children, London, 7, and Lincoln, 5, are doing.
Smith shot the video backstage, at the show where he was opening for Garth Brooks.
“My grandmother loved ’If Tomorrow Never Comes,'” Smith recalled. “And when my grandad died she engraved on his tombstone, If tomorrow never comes, will you know how much I love you?”
(Brooks has said of that 1989 song, “I ran the idea for this song by what seemed like a thousand writers and no one really seemed to understand what I was looking for. On the day that Bob Doyle, my co-manager, introduced me to Kent Blazy, I passed this idea by Kent and he had the first verse down within fifteen seconds. I could tell he just felt it.”)
“Tonight, everything came full circle because we’re out here on tour with Garth Brooks. The guy who taught me as a little kid how powerful lyrics can be. Here in a stadium, playing ’Heaven Bound Balloon’ to a Garth Brooks crowd, I knew that that was gonna mean something to me. To give a tribute in my own way to Riv.”
Smith goes on to say that music has always been healing to his family, and now more so than ever. “Maybe that’s why people say, ’How can you play a show?’ It’s because music is healing. The fans are healing me. You guys are doing the healing for me. It works both ways.”
For Smith and his wife, he says, they know that life is full of suffering and tribulations. How you come out of that on the other side is the meaning of life.
“If you go through life thinking, ’I’ve got this perfect life, look at me on Instagram,’ and you truly start believing that, then the flood’s coming. And when it does, you’re gonna think that you’re the victim. That life is not fair for you. God isn’t fair. He’s not listening,” he says of the trap he refused to fall into.
“Instead, we focus on understanding that life is gonna through curve balls and come at you hard.”
Amber is the more vocal of the two, both before and after River’s death. And Smith says she is “a lot better at words that I am.” She is indeed very good at capturing her emotions with pictures and words. Her latest Instagram post about their decision to donate River’s organs after he died is the perfect example of that.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be a donor if anything were to ever happen to me. I just felt that if I had viable organs, why would I go into the ground with them? My spirit would be in Heaven, so why not save a life if I could? Never in a million years did I think I would be making that decision for my baby. When 3 different neuro specialists told us that River had 0% chance of brain recovery (yes 0, not 10 or 1%, 0) after shock and reality set in, I thought, how can we bury our sweet baby and not try to help others? His body is perfect, his organs are perfect, we had to do something. There are so many people waiting for an organ to save their lives. The doctors said donation was quite a process. We would have to search for viable recipients and it could take days. We knew River’s spirit was in Heaven, but we couldn’t bear to watch his tiny, earthly body be pumped full of all the medicines for 3 or more more days while they searched. They tried to expedite the process so our family could be in peace, told us they would take him back to operate the next morning, but we wouldn’t know what organs could be used until after. With such a small body, organs had to be measured physically, not just by X-ray. I spent the night laying in bed with him, crying and talking to him while they kept running tests and taking blood. The next morning family and staff lined the hall for the “walk of honor”. We told them River liked to go fast, so to honor him, they pushed him down that hall faster than they had ever pushed anyone. Granger and I held each other and cried. We got the letter that our tiny, red-headed hero gave life to 2 adults. A 49 year old woman and a 53 year old man. I cried when we opened it. Cried out of sadness & cried out of love. I’m so proud to be River’s mama and I’m so grateful to God that he gave him to us for those incredible 3 years. I pray these 2 recipients live healthy, joy filled, full throttle lives just like Riv. It was one of the hardest, yet easiest, decisions we’ve ever made. There are over 113,000 people waiting for transplants & 20 people die each day waiting. Go to OrganDonor.gov to see how you can help give life as well.”