My dad committed the crime of first-degree murder on August 14, 1996, which is my birthday, and he went to prison. We spent the next fifteen years trying to get him out of incarceration. Dad took us to church as kids. I’d never seen him smoke or drink. He was a good man. There were just some things that happened with his marriage that sent him to prison.
When I first saw dad, less than an hour after he committed the crime, I walked up to a prison cell door, only able to see him through a very small window. As he squatted down in his cell he saw me. The first thing he did was smile. I can see it just like it was yesterday. When I entered his cell he began to cry. I said, “What have you done?” Dad looked at me and said, “I’ll never see heaven now.” That is a harsh thing to think about. Because at the end of the day, this world makes no difference. There was a time I thought it did. But at the end of the day if you can’t see heaven what’s the point?
At about eighteen or nineteen years old I realized you could play music in a bar and you could pick up chicks and drink a lot of alcohol. So I left the church and went out into the world. I played all kinds of music; country and rock in bars and clubs. When you walk into a Walmart and see your CD on the shelf, as a solo artist, it’s supposed to be fulfilling. You’re supposed to be really happy about it. I spent twelve years in the band, Confederate Railroad. They were great people. I had great opportunities. I traveled all over the country and world. I was Lynn Anderson’s bass player. I was offered a part in a movie with Actor, Michael Madsen. I’ve been in four movies. Two of them have been on the shelf in every Walmart, every Best Buy, and every Truck stop in America. For the last couple of years of my life, that wasn’t very fulfilling. There has been something missing. It seemed I was never really able to get over the hump in my career. Having had a background in the church I just put everything back into prayer.
On April 19, 2013, I received a phone call from Tennessee State Prison where my dad was incarcerated, that he had passed away. That was hard to swallow. We had done a lot of good since dad was imprisoned. He was in the mouth of a lot of kids. Through Big Brothers and Big Sisters, they know about his story and my story. We were writing positive songs about it. And he dies in prison? That wasn’t the way I expected God to answer prayer.
More than anything I was mad. I couldn't cry. I couldn’t be upset. Dad died on Friday, April 19 and on Saturday, April 20 God put His hand on my shoulder, so to speak, and said, “I got him out of prison. What else do you want?” After dad passed, the prison Chaplain said to me that dad would come see him a lot. He wanted to know if he could be forgiven for what he had done. I believe that he could be forgiven and I believe he was forgiven.
So the moral of the story of my life is this. I believe God will take you. He’ll break you. Then He’ll remake you. And I have been remade.
*Female Country Singer, Lynn Anderson, is known for her biggest hit “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden.”
**Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is the nation's premiere donor and volunteer-supported youth mentoring organization. www.bbbs.org