How Lyle Lovett Flew My Daddy From His Grave

For most of his life, my father was not church man. He became a regular and an usher later in life, but before then a pew must have felt like sitting on a live wire. And the town would have felt electrocuted at seeing him on one. He felt unworthy of such a place. He finally learned everybody is. For all the ugliness of his days, running back to the stinking squalor of his boyhood, my dad turned out a beautiful man.

And through all that ugliness, something beautiful found him in a singular old song. No matter the stench of a bender on him, it would clear his air.

Last night, I heard Lyle Lovett sing that song. Lyle helped me to live in it again. It was a resurrection, not a benediction. It reminded me there is no lasting ugliness. That what seems like hell is but a man tripping over the garment of grace before he grabs it and puts it on.

My dad, in his wrestling with God, loved a man named Wesley Grant, Senior. The Reverend Grant pastored a little fire-red church on Choctaw Street in Asheville, North Carolina. To my best knowledge, my daddy never set foot in it. But he saw, and would not miss, the Reverend Grant on Sunday morning TV. A half hour of spirituals. Wesley Grant was a black man on a mostly white medium in the 70s, and now I believe his audience looked like Dr King’s Dream.

At the end of each show, Pastor sang that old spiritual — I’ll Fly Away.

He’d made it the title song of the program. His anthem to souls in mortal flight from earthbound suffering. Pastor Grant let it fly, flapped his arms like a bird, thrust out that song on a spray of gravely baritone, and it surely made my father happy as I would ever see him. I’ll Fly Away became my father’s hope. His rhapsody of assurance. I believe it helped teach him that Love is inescapable, destined to light upon him.

The Reverend Grant and my father sing it together now, I imagine. They have flown from here. Happy in the Mystery. But thank God, Lyle Lovett is still here. Here, but wired into that ageless Mystery. Last night, singing I’ll Fly Away with a heart that would hold a million souls, he wired my father’s spirit in to sit beside me, for just a little while. I could nearly hear him say, “Son, it’s all right. It all belongs, here in your time. It’s gonna be way more than all right.”

Now my father knows this for certain. For he has flown, yet not so terribly far away.

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One Response to “How Lyle Lovett Flew My Daddy From His Grave”

  1. Barbara F Franklin Says:

    Michael, that took me back…I remember watching Pastor Wesley Grant as a child, and the impact he made on those in our house!
    I’ve been touched in how you’ve opened your soul to share your journey…We’re more alike than we are different! Thank you!

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