Ernie Haase, the Grammy-nominated lead singer of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, was recording the gospel quartet’s latest album, “Clear Skies,” when he received unthinkable news: his sister-in-law, Tara Younce, was unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Then, Younce, 42, tragically passed away just weeks before the album’s Jan. 26 release, leaving Ernie and his wife, Lisa, Younce’s sister, in the midst of mourning. The juxtaposition between the album title, “Clear Skies” and the personal storm the family has suffered hasn’t been lost on the couple.
Haase spoke with Faithwire about Younce’s painful death and how it impacted his life, music and faith. He also had a powerful message for others who might be facing life challenges. Check it out:
FAITHWIRE: We are so sorry for your loss. When did Tara pass away?
ERNIE: Dec 31, 2017, at about 9:30 p.m.. She was only 42.
FAITHWIRE: What was it like learning that Tara was diagnosed with cancer in the midst of your busy music career?
ERNIE: It was a major punch in the gut for sure. We never dreamed when she went to the ER on Dec 9th that the pain she was feeling was anything more than a gallbladder attack or maybe appendicitis. To hear “cancer” was a shock. Even though we are a family of faith, it was scary.
FAITHWIRE: How did that diagnosis change your music?
ERNIE: Honestly, it has made me sing from a broken place [more] than I have never … before. There is no “knowing” like “experience.” You can hear things and have those facts in your intellect, but when you go through something like this you have a different “knowing.” I am singing from that place of knowing and it has helped me connect with others who “know” that way too.
FAITHWIRE: How did you process the fact that your album was titled “Clear Skies” while you faced such a difficult personal storm?
ERNIE: I purposely released this project in the dead of winter, because I wanted people to be reminded that clear skies are indeed coming. In a real way, the promise of spring is a great promise. And for those who are experiencing a winter of the soul, I wanted to remind them, too, that weeping endures for the night and joy will come one day. And now the song is not my song because I helped write it, it’s my song because I’m living it with my family.
FAITHWIRE: How did you all get through Tara’s diagnosis and death?
ERNIE: Well, we are still getting through it. It’s been really hard for my wife and her family. The great sadness is still there. But just like everyone else, we hold on not to just promises… we hold on to the promise. Jesus is enough. We feel our Savior suffering with us. That is one of the main reasons I follow Christ. I know he cares.
FAITHWIRE: What has God taught you during this terrible ordeal?
ERNIE: I cannot sing, teach, write or do anything on my own. … I am learning that everything is a gift, even the dying part [of life]. It teaches us, unlike anything else, and gives me solidarity with those who suffer, too. I am learning to let go and not hold on to the things that are not eternal. Relationships and moments with the Savior are what matter most.
FAITHWIRE: How do you forge on in your work after that loss?
ERNIE: I know I am called. If I ever doubted it, I doubt it no more. It’s not the sales or the standing ovations; it’s the calling to connect heart to Christ that forges me on, not a career. That’s hard to explain, but that is the honest truth.
FAITHWIRE: What are you hoping listeners take away from “Clear Skies?”
ERNIE: We have been hearing testimonies of renewed faith in Christ and how these songs direct people to enjoy the “now” of life. That is all we are promised. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow — who knows if it will come? But right now is where we can know Christ … These songs are helping people connect to the now.
FAITHWIRE: How does “Clear Skies” differ from your past projects?
ERNIE: Sonically, it is the most pleasing music to date. When we started writing and recorded songs for the new “Clear Skies” CD, we asked the Lord to give us a clear vision on material that would be easy on the ears but deep, and heavy on the heart. This is the most personal project I have ever been a part of in my 30 years of ministry.