My name is Yvonne Stanley and Mike Stanley was my husband.
Mike Stanley was a song writer and liturgical musician and he travelled with the Birmingham Diocesan pilgrimage for over twenty years, many of them with CJM, delivering music and liturgy.
Please bear with me, I’m rather out of my comfort zone. I was the person who usually stood behind Mike at these events or stayed at home to look after our three boys while he did what he loved!
In December 2010 Mike was taken ill very suddenly and on Christmas Day was given the news that he had bowel cancer. He was to learn just weeks later that it was incurable and time was limited.
Although he lived a very public life Mike chose to walk his journey privately.
His focus became his family and his faith, which he professed though his music. With the new Mass translation, Mike began writing his first mass setting and then another and then another… 6 in all!
He read Scripture, he talked to his friends many of whom were priests, read papal documents and from that the music flowed. I am still stumbling across lyrics and chords written on the back of receipts, napkins and church newsletters!
Andy Ross, who has been with CJM since he was 15, became a frequent visitor and Mike became more a friend than mentor. They worked so well together and with Mike experiencing sleepless nights due to treatment and Andy just being an insomniac, many of the songs you will hear were penned in the early hours!
Mike never set out to make these CDs, but as the songs continued to become more prolific and beautiful, they deserved a home.
So he began recording.
Many of you will be familiar with Mike speaking of his office at home, at the bottom of the garden which he fondly called The Liturgy Shack! Myself and the boys became accustomed to musicians walking through the house at all hours to record their parts. And if they couldn’t come, mike would go to them or use technology to have parts sent to him. Up until April last year Mike was taking these tracks to the recording studio to mix.
I worried, how could I not? But he had a calling and so we all supported him as best we could…
When Mike first started performing in his late teens he produced two cassettes (I shall leave the older people to explain to the younger ones what those are!!). He wrote them under his own label of Fisherman Music.
Many years later, after writing music that was so personal to him, he wanted to thank individuals or make dedications, so it seemed fitting that where his musical journey began with Fisherman, then his musical legacy should end with Fisherman.
Most of you will probably already be acquainted with the first two CDs, Faith and Dewfall. I thanked God the day Dewfall arrived at our door, two weeks earlier than expected. Firstly in time to accompany the pilgrimage last year but mainly to see Mike’s face light up as he held Dewfall in his hands.
His next question was typical… What about the other songs? So I promised him I would complete it.
Myself and Andy found ourselves back in the liturgy shack and the recording studio. It was unbearably hard without our leader! But we felt his presence…
He’d already chosen the songs and the title… Grace.
So this is the launch of Grace! It will be available to buy during the week and back home from both Fisherman and CJM, who have been wonderful in their support of me. I know that Jo has missed Mike desperately too, even his jokes but especially his smile….
We are located in the permenence and someone will be there to help you before and after each service this week.
Myself, Andy, Dan and Adam (my eldest son, who has brought his daddy’s guitar back to Lourdes) would like to play two songs from Grace. The first is the title track. It is a gentle reworking of the traditional hymn Amazing Grace.
During two and a half years, Mike endured bowel surgery, 6 rounds of chemotherapy and 2 blood clots…
During two and a half years mike wrote 6 mass settings, 3 CDs, three resource books and more songs to come…
During two and a half years, after so many trips away, Mike spent beautiful times with his family, making memories that will stay with us forever….
During two and a half years, Mike not only kept his faith, he professed it, he lived it and he inspired others through it…
After two and a half years, on June 6th last year, we said goodbye to Mike. He was 48.
The second song is called The Prodigal’s Return. It is a simple comforting song speaking of homecoming and forgiveness at the end of a long journey. He wrote it on the day he was told treatment was no longer working, he knew where his journey would end but he wasn’t afraid, he was going home.
As for myself and the boys? We will continue Mike’s legacy. It’s very hard to explain how you feel during these times so I would like to quote from somebody who knows. I’m sure most of you will know of Stephen Sutton, who died a few days ago after a long and inspiring journey of his own. He was from our hometown and at Adams school, and he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in the same month as mike. I listened to his mother speaking and in one sentence she summed up how I feel:
‘My heart is bursting with pride and breaking with pain.’
I want you to know that Lourdes was like a second home to Mike. So it felt fitting to bring Grace home with pilgrims who remembered and loved him. Grace is his gift to you…