On Saturday night, for the first time in a couple of years... I walked out on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. It was beautiful and surreal at the same time.
I'd stood on that hallowed stage dozens of times over the last eight years or so, but never alone. Never without Joey. She was the only reason I was ever there in the first place. I know that. I was a songwriter with a wife who had a dream that was so big, her husband was swept up in it... along with thousands and now millions of other people who loved her too.
But last night, she wasn't with me. I had been asked to introduce our friend Bradley Walker as he debuted two new songs off his new album on the Opry stage. And so during the 8:30 segment, The Whites (a family group who are like family to us) said some kind things to the crowd about my wife and I, then called my name and I walked out into the spotlight for the first time without Joey. And then it happened...
It wasn't just the applause. It was how long it lasted and how many people rose to their feet before I could even say a word. I was floored. Joey and I had experienced moments like this before... but it was for a show we played or a song we sang. This was different. It was all for her. For us. For the journey that we had been on and the courage my wife had shown through it all. And I was honored. So honored to be there. To hear and feel the overwhelming volume of what sounded like applause, but what it really was... was love. It was beyond humbling.
I was also honored to introduce our dear friend Bradley to four-thousand or so people who were in the audience. To be a small part of seeing more of his dreams come true last night...
The first song Bradley sang was called "Call Me Old Fashioned" from his new album that I was blessed with opportunity to help him make.
You could've heard a pin drop as he started singing. But by the time he finished the first verse, the crowd exploded with applause. And when the song was over, again the crowd jumped to their feet and the applause that I believe Bradley so deserves, didn't stop for a long, long time.
I stood in the wings of the Opry stage with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. Knowing that Joey too was on her feet in heaven, leading a standing ovation of her own with angels above.
After the show, Bradley signed autographs in Opry store and hundreds of people stood in line to meet him and get a copy of the album that came out a few days ago. It too is called "Called Me Old Fashioned" and is out in Walmart's and Cracker Barrel's all across the country.
I don't have a video of Bradley's performance of "Old Fashioned" on Saturday night at the Opry. Oh I wish I did. But I have the music video that Bradley made a few weeks ago and my cousin Aaron and the folks on our team just finished editing...
To understand how special this moment is for Bradley, you probably need to see another moment in his life...one from many years ago. The video below is from 1989 when Bradley was ten years old and on stage with the Oak Ridge Boys...
Just like his performance on the Opry stage, when I watch the music video and hear the lines that Bradley's singing (and believes every word of), I can't help but smile. If you look up "old-fashioned" in a dictionary, one of the definitions you'll find is "...having conservative behavior, ways, ideas or tastes of earlier times". Another is "...of a style or kind that is no longer in vogue".
Speaking from a man who wears overalls everyday, I'd say that pretty much sums it up. And I personally love being a little old-fashioned. So did Joey. She and I were cut from same cloth - and that cloth was clearly a fabric that had long gone out of style decades ago. But each of us separately and together recognized the value in it.
Thankfully, we're not the only ones who do. We're surrounded by other young people who are old-fashioned too. Men, women and families that are holding those tried-and-true values up to a new light and are coming around to seeing how cool being square really is.
And it's showing up, not just in how they dress... but in the decisions they're making. Like our family doctor Theron Hutton. He quit his family practice a year or so ago to do something different. Something better.
Theron and his wife Sarah are the first family that you see in Bradley's music video. They have seven children and live on a farm about ten minutes from ours. They, like many other neighbors have spent countless evenings with us in our garden, weeding and harvesting this summer. Their three year old son Caleb has down-syndrome too. He is who Joey is hoping our little Indiana marries someday.
Theron decided that the best future for his new medical practice was to take it back in time. He's now a functional-medicine doctor who not only does house calls... he does everything in his power to heal you first with diet and lifestyle choices before prescribing medicine. I love that. Theron's not just just a physician who's trying to help people get better... he's a man who's trying to help people live better lives. To make better decisions.
When Indiana's sick like she was about two weeks ago, I don't have take her to a doctor's office anymore. The doctor comes to us... like they use to do in days-gone-by. Theron gets in his pickup and drives to our house and will share a cup of coffee with me while he listens to Indy breathe and asks us questions about her and our lives.
And he doesn't just do it for us. He does it for all his patients.
I can text or call him if I have any questions or concerns. In the middle of the night if I need to. When we were in Montana this summer, we were driving through Yellowstone and Indy started struggling breathing. Two hours into the trip, she could hardly catch her breath. When I got to a place where I had cell signal, I texted Theron. He immediately called me back and listened to Indy breathe over the phone. He was concerned that she had pneumonia and told us to turn around and drive to the nearest town for medical help. And then he explained how to cut the bottom out of a empty water bottle and attach to my older daughter's inhaler, so that Indy could get some albuterol into her system and be okay for the two hour drive back down the mountains to Cody, Wyoming. And the contraption worked perfectly. We made it down the mountain just fine and found out when we got to the emergency room in Cody that Indy did have pneumonia. An antibiotic and a few days of rest later, and she was all better.
I don't know what I would have done, if Theron wasn't the kind of doctor and man that he is. It wasn't just more convenient for our family, it was important.
Joey and I have been blessed with so many wonderful people in our lives. Bradley and Theron are just two of them. And I love that for a moment this summer, in a music video... their lives and their dreams connected with ours and I have the opportunity to share some of their story while I'm sharing mine. I wish I could do more to lift them up, but it's all I have. The chance for me to rise to my feet and give them the standing ovation that they and so many others deserve but don't get everyday.
To learn more about Bradley and his music you can go to his website www.bradleywalker.com or even better, to your local Walmart or Cracker Barrel and pick up his new cd. You can also watch his full-length tv special that was filmed in our barn and I hosted if you have time at www.gaither.com
To learn more about Theron, he has a new website with a neat video about his practice on the front page. www.mulberryclinics.com