The holidays have been a roller-coaster for my bride. She’s had some good days, some bad days – some wonderful moments, and some deep pain that the morphine just couldn’t seem to touch. How could it… it wasn’t that kind of pain.
They say that at Christmas time emotions run high, and you feel more than you do the rest of the year. I think that’s probably true. Though she managed a smile most of the time, Joey’s heart was heavy and she was feeling some things she hadn’t before…
A sadness. A fear of the unknown. And even some anger – not at God, just at her situation I suppose. It’s not easy for her to be as excited about what the new year holds in store as it was last year.
But she says she’s seen the light, and she’s over that now…
If you don’t know who Bill Gaither and his wife Gloria are, you should take a moment and look them up. They’re legendary songwriters and artists in the gospel music world. Bill’s song “He Touched Me” has been recorded by everyone and his brother, including Elvis. And the hymnals in most churches around the country are filled with pages and pages of their songs of faith, inspiration and hope. Songs like “Because He Lives”, “Something Beautiful” and “Jesus, There’s Just Something About That Name” to name a few.
But before Bill made the history books, he was an English teacher in the local high school here in Joey’s hometown, and Gloria taught French. Both Joey’s daddy and mama were students of theirs in the late 1960’s. And though in the past 50 years the Gaithers have grown a music empire and are known the world-over, they still live in the same small town and are a part of every day life here in Alexandria.
Especially ours lately…
Bill comes to see Joey just about every day, when he’s not on the road. We’ll get a knock on the door in the morning or early afternoon, and next thing you know Bill will be parked in a chair beside Joey’s bed, telling her jokes and stories about days long-past and he’ll have Joey and all of us laughing and smiling ‘til our faces hurt.
I think he just wants to brighten Joey’s day and create as much joy for her as he can. We all do.
A week or so ago, just before Christmas – on the other side of the pond… we noticed a big fire burning by the gazebo.
From Joey’s bedroom window, we could see the beautiful flames dancing across the water.
It was magical.
As I sat beside my wife watching… my cell-phone rang. I picked it up.
“Can she see it?”, the deep voice said.
“Yes Bill, it’s beautiful”. I answered – knowing that he had built the fire, hoping she could see if from her window.
“Is she smiling?”, Mr Gaither asked.
I looked over at Joey watching the flames, beaming ear-to-ear… and found myself doing the same thing.
“We all are Bill”.
That’s the thing about someone burning with passion – the whole world can see their light. They have something that shines so bright inside them, others can’t help but notice it in their eyes and on their faces and in their actions. They use their lives to provide some light in a dark world that can be overwhelming and scary at times.
Bill has sure shined his light on us.
The last couple of albums and DVD’s we’ve made have been with Bill and the Gaither organization. Our new Hymns record coming out next month is with them too. For each project, Bill has personally sat down and interviewed us on-camera and asked us questions about the music we’ve made and about our lives.
But what he’s actually doing in those moments is wrapping his arms around us, and doing all he can to shine a light on us for the world to see.
He uses his light to start a flame for us…
With hopes that someday we might use our light to shine on others.
And he doesn’t just do that for us, he’s done it for dozens, if not hundreds of up-and-coming and past-their-prime artists throughout his career.
After all this time, Bill’s still a teacher at heart. Most conversations that we have with him, he’s sharing things he’s learned – mistakes he’s made and wisdom he’s gleamed from a life-time of making music that he loves and loving the ones he has been given the chance to make music with.
Gloria is the same way. She has a way with words that most of us will never have. In early November when this little town of Alexandria held a prayer vigil for my wife, Gloria and Bill were one of hundreds who stood out on the street in the rain and lifted Joey up to Lord in prayer.
With candles, they all gathered and lit a fire that I have a feeling will keep burning long after Joey’s gone. After I’m gone.
Thank you Bill. Thank you Gloria. Thank you everyone.
We are all seeing the light.