“Some songs are written as stories for other people to tell, but some songs I write because the story is mine,” Kenna Turner West shares. “If She Could” falls into that second category.
Her grandmother battled Alzheimer’s for about ten years. It reached the point where it was too dangerous to leave her alone, so West’s mother moved her to Tennessee to live with her.
“Granny was very healthy; she just couldn’t remember,” West said. “It was so hard watching her fail and watching my mom struggle with losing her mom.”
“One day,” she adds, “my mom walked into my grandmother’s room to wake her up and Granny was sitting on the side of the bed. Granny’s name was Estelle, but Mom called her Stellar.”
“My mother said, ‘Good morning, Stellar.’ Granny said, ‘Good morning! I just feel like I know you.’ My mom said, ‘Well, yeah, I’m your baby.’”
“My grandmother began to just sob. She said, ‘What kind of mother doesn’t know her own child?’”
“My mom climbed into the bed with her, tucked my granny’s head into her shoulder, and rocked her until she quit crying, just like my grandmother had done for my mom so many times as a child. When Granny quit crying, she leaned back and looked at my mom with great clarity and said, ‘One day I’ll know you.’”
When Kenna Turner West wrote the song “If She Could,” she wasn’t even sure if she would share it with anyone. She was just writing about her grandmother: “She struggles to hold to things that are fading away / Stares out the window with hours with nothing to say.” The chorus says: “She can’t even remember if the old days were all that good / she’d tell you all about it if she could.”
Her grandmother’s phrase, “One day I’ll know you,” resonated particularly deeply. West thought about the passage in I Corinthians 13, where we shall “know as we are known.”
“That’s why I wrote the song,” she said. “To remind families like ours who are slowly losing their loved ones to Alzheimer’s the promises of God that are theirs in Christ.” At the end of the song, the lyric, ‘When I get to Heaven / I won’t be the same / And when I see you / I’ll know your name,’ was based on a real conversation that my grandmother had with my mom.”
“If She Could” was the story of Kenna’s grandmother, but it was the story of Sheri Easter’s grandmother, as well. Joyce Martin, Karen Peck Gooch, and Sheri Easter recorded a project together, Best of Friends. They included “If She Could” on that project; Jeff & Sheri Easter also later recorded it on a live DVD.