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When my wife died at age 27, these two Christian recording artists helped me through my grieving…

When my wife died at age 27, these two Christian recording artists helped me through my grieving…

After my wife, Renee, passed on from cancer in 1992—at the startlingly young age of 27—I did a lot of grieving.

One of the things that helped me through that process was listening to the music of two Christian recording artists.

I’ve mentioned them a few times on Catholic Answers Live when people call in who are dealing with personal losses, and I thought I’d blog about them in hopes that the information could be helpful to others.

I’m not impressed by a lot of artists, but I am by these two. They’re both very talented musicians and songwriters—and not just about grieving. Their music deals with a lot of situations from life and is well worth listening to whether you’re grieving or not!

Their names are Mark Heard and Billy Sprague.

Both artists are Evangelicals (or, I should say, Mark Heard was Evangelical; he passed just a couple of weeks before Renee did).

They both lost people, and this informs their work. They have a sense of the reality of suffering, but framed with a Christian worldview that emphasizes hope and redemption.

This combination—suffering, hope, and redemption—made their music very helpful to me.

It can still make me tear up—in a good way. (In fact, I did writing this post.)

Here are a few notes on the artists, as well as some of the albums that I listened to—and particular songs that I found helpful.

These were a comfort to me, and I hope they will provide comfort to others.

Whether you’re grieving or not, I recommend both these artists!

Mark Heard

Heard’s music ranges across a variety of musical styles (rock, country, zydeco) and is very thoughtful.

It is filled with powerful images, complex emotions, and subtle biblical references.

I’ve blogged about it—in connection with Renee’s death—before. You can read about that here.

Here’s a recording of Mark’s song Treasure of the Broken Land.

Billy Sprague

Sprague’s music also ranges across a variety of musical styles, but it is primarily rock and orchestral rock-oriented. It is clear that one of his major influences has been the Beatles.

His music tends to be more overtly Christian (e.g., Sprague will just come out and say “Heaven Is a Long Hello”—whereas Heard will allude to being reunited with our loved ones by mentioning “miraculous circumstance where the blind ones see and the dry bones dance”).

Here’s a recording of Billy’s song Press On.


Sprague tends to be more explicit, whereas Heard relies more on allusions. Both the more direct and the less direct approaches are helpful in reaching and processing emotions.

Both artists have music that is very beautiful and can be emotionally powerful for a grieving person (or anybody).

Both also have music that contains of sorrow and hope. Heard’s helped me process feelings of sorrow a little bit more, while Sprague’s helped me feel hope a little bit more.

This made them both good for the different stages of grieving.

Mark Heard Discography for Grieving

Album: Dry Bones Dance (1990)

Key Songs:

  • Rise from the Ruins
  • Dry Bones Dance
  • House of Broken Dreams
  • Strong Hand of Love

Album: Satellite Sky (1992)

Key Songs:

  • Satellite Sky
  • Orphans of God
  • Language of Love
  • Treasure of the Broken Land

Billy Sprague Discography for Grieving

Album: Torn Between Two Worlds (1992)

Key Songs:

  • Heaven Is a Long Hello
  • Waiting for the Day
  • For the One Who Sleeps
  • You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down


Album: The Wind and the Wave (1993)

Key Songs:

  • Press On
  • A Way Back
  • The Blessing (of the Fleet)
  • The Sacred Journey

Author: Jimmy Akin

Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith, and in 1992 he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”

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