About four months after Ashley died, Susan and Justin and I took a trip from our home in Texas to visit some friends in Tennessee and then spend a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains. Driving late at night, somewhere between Memphis and Nashville, the idea for a song began growing in my head. It was a tribute to the remarkable life of my Ashley, her profound impact on our lives as her family, and the deep emptiness left in our hearts by her death. But even amidst the palpable sadness of our grief, I found my thoughts, and the emerging song, focusing on the hope that is inherent in my faith — the promise that, one day, we will see her and hold her once again.
The more we drove, the more the song grew and began to organize itself into verses and a chorus. I asked Susan to find some paper and a pen and start writing down the words so that I wouldn’t forget them. I drove and Susan wrote, and by the time we reached Nashville, “Until Then” was a song.
The next day, I reluctantly shared my song with the Dabbs family, our Nashville friends, and they liked it. Over the next several months, I continued to share “Until Then” with a few people here and there, and was always pleased with the feedback I received. Jeremy Pate, a dear friend and fellow youth minister, heard the song and offered to record an instrumental track to go behind the lyrics. He and his cousin Steve Agee proceeded to do just that. They got together and recorded a guitar track and drum track. Another good friend, Randy McCoy, was running a professional recording studio in Fort Worth at the time. I shared with him my dream of getting a good recording of “Until Then” using the instrumental track provided by Jeremy and Steve. Randy offered to help.
On Thursday evening, December 2, 2004, I met Randy at the recording studio. Jeremy and my son Justin were with me. The first step was to record my vocals on top of the instrumental track, often re-recording a single phrase several times to get it just right. It was a fascinating process.
After the lead vocals were recorded, Jeremy and Justin each took their turn at the microphone, Jeremy singing high harmonies and Justin singing low harmonies. To have Jeremy help with the vocals, after having already contributed enormously to the project by providing the instrumental track, was very special. To have Justin be such an integral part of this project commemorating the life of his beloved big sister was meaningful beyond description.
Click the graphic below to listen to my song, “Until Then”.
Ever since I wrote “Until Then”, I have had this really big dream of someday having it recorded by a well-known country artist (ideally a male singer who is a very wholesome family man). I have no idea how to make that happen, but it continues to be a dream, for two reasons:
- Music is powerful and therapeutic. When Ashley was going through her cancer battle, and when she died, and even to this day, there have been a handful of songs that have served as a source of strength for me and for my family. Music has the power to soothe the soul, to invoke reflection and soul-searching, and even to bring a sense of calm and peace. It is a crucial and fundamental element to life itself.Knowing how therapeutic music has been for me, it is my hope that “Until Then” can provide that same sense of connection and healing for others who are traveling their own grief journey. Obviously, the more exposure the song gets, the better chance it has of helping other people. Having a well-known artist record the song would certainly get it in front of exponentially more people than I could ever hope to do on my own. So this is my “altruistic” reason for wanting to have “Until Then” recorded by a well-known artist. I want it to help people.
- I also have a more selfish reason for wanting my song to reach lots of people. It would simply be one more way for me to keep Ashley’s memory alive. As I wrote in a previous blog post:
For those families who are left with empty arms and broken hearts, one of their greatest fears is that the world will forget that their precious child was here. I know, because I am one of those broken-hearted Daddies. There is a burning desire deep in my soul to keep Ashley’s memory alive. I cannot explain it to those who have not walked my path. Nor will I apologize for it to those who do not understand. Ashley, quite simply, is worth remembering.
This burning desire has been a big part of the motivation behind my keeping Ashley’s memorial website up and running, even eight years after her death. It is one of the reasons I started this blog. And it is one of the reasons that I dream of having “Until Then” make it big in the world of music. The more people who hear it, the more people will know about my Ashley.