“David was my birdsong – fragile, loving and gifted in song.”
– Margaret Konopacki
From: Dave Martin ! Sent: Tuesday Dec. 27 2016 - To: Margaret Konopacki
Subject: Your song!! Here’s the song Mum! Love you SO much!!!! Hope you love it!!!
As we approach our pre-Christmas launch of three songs from BIRDSONG Foundation’s first compilation album, this blog is dedicated to the meaning behind “Maggie’s Song,” which was a gift to me from my son, David, four years ago.
Who could have guessed that would be his last Christmas? David took his life September 24, 2017 at the age of 30 due to lack of treatment options that could help him find stability, compounded by a feeling that the world had abandoned him. Hopelessness leads to suicide, often by the most gifted and sensitive people.
After David died, I took his unrecorded music to Vancouver to a friend – Nygel Asselin from NYG Music – and spent many months creating the only album that David left behind.
This song, my son’s greatest gift to me, like the Taj Mahal, inspired me and became something to hang onto -- to try to come to terms with this heartbreaking tragedy. Today when I feel sad, I listen to David singing and he lifts my spirits. His songs comfort me and keep me going. It’s true that love has no boundaries and I believe that death cannot separate us completely. David’s songs, and especially the gift of “Maggie’s Song,” carry a timeless message about love and longing. More than anything, this song keeps my son’s memory alive for me. My gift to him and others like him is the BIRDSONG Foundation.
I think “Maggie’s Song” is a tribute to all mothers and motherhood. When you hear the lyrics, it shows the devotion and love of an adult child who deeply loves his mother – perhaps the last person who still believed in him and who did not give up on him. The authenticity of the lyrics pulls at the heartstrings.
David was raised with music as an everyday activity. Music was always part of my family; my father played classical violin and so did I as early as age 7 with the Parkdale United Church Orchestra in Ottawa. David’s dad, John Martin, was a drummer from Manchester, England, before his work with MuchMusic.
There was always a piano in our living room and David picked up the guitar at age 5 and never let it go. He would travel with it and play music almost every day of his life. Playing music was always a cornerstone in our lives. Murray McLauchlan was David’s godfather and many of our friends at the time were musicians and artists. Gordon Lightfoot gave David his own hand-made guitar of which he was so proud. That was our life for a while – surrounded by Canadian music greats and participating in all things cultural and musical.
David and I had a unique relationship as mother and son due in part to his illness. He could not tolerate a regimented school schedule due to ADHD and later bipolar illness, so he was homeschooled – in between stints in recovery centers – and world schooled. He had been expelled from four schools in Canada by age 14, but that did not stop me from offering him an education which included living in different cultures to experience their way of life while completing distance learning.
Any family that has a child or family member who struggles with substance use disorder or mental illness knows how your world is often turned upside down. Yet it is your life and often you cannot fix the problem. There are mental illnesses that no amount of therapy, medication or meditation can fix.
But life together was good no matter what was going on because of the love base that kept us together. When I look at the only video I shot of David performing this song, I can see his deep devotion in his demeanor. “Maggie’s Song” is the love story of a mother and child.
Because mental illness is so incredibly harsh and often cruel, many families reel from living through crisis after crisis often choosing “tough love” as a program method to keep themselves balanced. I know about tough love, because I, too, took part in some of these suggested responses to substance use disorder and bipolar and now I no longer believe in “tough love” as a form of controlling other people’s behavior. Creating boundaries is another story.
The last decade of my life with David was no longer antagonistic, or a cat and mouse game to chase or force him to follow all rules and suggestions. I had learned to let go by then. He was not a teen anymore, but an adult and I respected him and his choices even if I did not understand them. I learned to live and let live, and to allow my son’s creator to determine how his life’s story would unfold. I know in my heart I did what I could, and I could do no more.
What I can do now is imagine a world where we don’t discriminate against the mentally ill or people who carry such a diagnosis. And with BIRDSONG, we can keep a few more of them alive.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.” – John Lennon
MAGGIE’S SONG (Words and music by David Martin)
Rock me, rock me to sleep,
The sound of your voice makes my heart skip a beat,
To the depths I will go with the warmth of your touch,
Maggie you loved me that much,
Softly, I drift away,
Your voice in my head at the end of the day,
And I'm not alone with three words that you say,
Cause' Maggie you loved me that way,
‘Cause Maggie you loved me that way.
You showed me the world,
Taught me to speak, always listening first,
Your strength made me see,
And taught me what a man really means,
Rock me, rock me to sleep,
Your faith didn't end with me turning 18,
It travelled with me when I left the house,
‘Cause Maggie that's what love's all about,
Maggie that's what love's all about.