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Obstacles that Shape Us: From grieving to releasing an album and book

Lindsey, her dad and her stepmom Dawn.
Lindsey, her dad and her stepmom Dawn. Credit: Lindsey White

Obstacles that Shape Us is a series of inspiring stories shared by Canadians who have overcome adversity. Learn how their life experiences impacted who they are and what they do today.

It wasn’t until she was 27 years old that musician Lindsey White started spending time with her dad Jim, who was in his 50s at the time.

When she learned he was battling cancer, White decided to put the album she was working on aside.

“I didn’t know him really well for most of my life but around this period that the album was being written and recorded, we got to know each other really well as he was becoming more and more sick,” White said.

She remembers her dad started trying really hard to cultivate something meaningful with family as he battled the disease.

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Lindsey White and her father Jim at his UPS franchise store.
Lindsey White and her father Jim at his UPS franchise store. Submitted

“He wrote letters to my sisters, he reached out in the ways that he could,” she said.

“That was a huge obstacle for me in terms of just processing not only our relationship, but what it meant to me to get closer and closer to him as he was slipping away.”

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White said putting her album on hold meant she had a chance to focus on was actually important in her life.

“When you’re in an E.R. or you’re dealing with someone who’s at the end of their life, certain things just become very clear and other things become just, that is an obvious back-burner,” she said.

She spent months picking her father up and taking driving him to chemotherapy appointments, as he continued to work as a UPS franchise owner. Slowly, they got to know each other.

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“We were able to be real with each other in a whole new way … he believed in me and he believed in my art,” White said. “He was able to let some of his own things go, and he taught me to let certain things go, too.”

“He helped me to learn how to take pressure off myself and how to face my own challenges differently.”

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WATCH: Musician Lindsey White shares what she learned from her dad as he went through chemotherapy 

Musician Lindsey White shares some of what she learned from her dad
Musician Lindsey White shares some of what she learned from her dad

White also gained new perspective on love from her dad.

“I learned so much about love and I don’t think it is what I thought it was … I just feel like it’s so much of a greater force than I previously recognized.”

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On what she thought could be her dad’s last Father’s Day in 2009, White decided to dedicate a song called Renegade to her dad who was watching in the crowd at the Winnipeg Jazz Fest. She originally wrote the song back in 2004 but found a new meaning for it after getting to know her dad.

White’s dad passed away shortly after the performance at age 57.

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After months of grieving, she finally gathered up the courage to start making an album again, which would be called Renegade.

“I had lots of inspiration from this experience but also just the drive and the determination to say, OK, I think I know the direction this needs to go now, and I think now I have like the guts, the heart, and the soul to see it through to see it through to creation and to make this a reality.”

She knew she wanted the title track to be called Renegade which to White means: the careful assessment of tools in our own hands to make something of our choosing with them in a world that would rather make something else.

“I feel like we really are all artists in our own way, and we really do have tools to make something of our own lives if nothing else … when we decide to accept the responsibility associated with that power and make something great is when I feel like when we’re operating to our fullest,” White said.

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In addition to the album she decided to write and publish a book in 2015, also titled Renegade, which largely surrounds the illness and death of her dad. The book begins with a page called “On Becoming a Renegade” where White explains her personal journey of grieving, healing and re-creating art.

“At the beginning of this process before the album was finished being written and recorded and released I was a very different person than I was now,” White said.

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WATCH: Musician Lindsey White explains what renegade means to her    

Winnipeg musician explains what renegade means to her
Winnipeg musician explains what renegade means to her

White still plays and creates music on her father’s guitar. She also started riding her dad’s motorcycle, an old 1982 Honda named Betty.

Lindsey riding Betty
Lindsey riding Betty Courtesy Lindsey White

“I think anyone who has gone through a significant obstacle in their life would realize that, although you might not be grateful for the pressure at the time, afterwards when you are able to see and feel and experience what the result is, you wouldn’t change a thing … of course it would be great if my dad were still here, but I feel grateful that the way it happened … even though it was traumatic and awful,”

“A piece of who dad is and was stays with me, right, so I feel that we’re still connected, it’s still shaping me.”

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You can watch Lindsey White’s new music video here and learn more about her latest projects on her website.