Smiler McGee is a nickname I gave one day to our special needs son Jared, who is and will always be my number one fan. He loved music more than anything—except for maybe being in a pool or riding on a horse at hippotherapy.

Jared died shortly before his 14th birthday of a kidney disease. He never walked or talked, he breathed through a trach, was fed through a feeding tube and had hearing and vision challenges. Despite all of those things, he made every day with him special and he introduced us to people whom we are still fortunate to call friends.

Jared’s smile was so big and so wide—and his dimples were so awesome—that Smiler McGee seemed to be a fun and fitting name. Plus, when you have a child who can’t talk, you find yourself talking, singing and smiling right along with him. And, oh, how Jared would sing. He couldn’t form words but that coo of his was his way of telling us how happy he was.

When I would play the piano, Jared would get quiet, listen and watch me closely. Better than that, he didn’t mind my mistakes. When the rest of the family would leave the house, I could actually sing to Jared—a phobia I’ve had for most of my life—and he loved it. He gave me confidence and in many ways, since I had to give up creating music for months on end to be in the hospital with him on several occasions, he gave music back to me during the time we were together.

Smiler McGee was a gift in my life who keeps on giving.

These songs, each of which has its own story, are for him.