I love country music. It's the kind of music that makes America the greatest country on the planet. A country song just tells it like it is -- plain and simple.
Folks like Johnny Cash, Dolly and Hank --- they know how to sing a song that'll make even the burliest truck driver cry like a newborn baby. Even the worst country music songs are still better than some of the stuff on today's charts. Who can forget these classics?
1. If You Can't Live Without Me, Then Why Aren't You Dead?
2. Get Off the Stove, Grandma, You're Too Old to Ride the Range
3. Jesus Loves Me but He Can't Stand You
4. I Wouldn't Take Her to a Dog Fight, Cause I'm Afraid She'd Win
5. You're the Reason Our Kids are Ugly
And my personal favorite for all you folks infatuated with boy bands --- "I'd Rather Hear a Fat Girl Fart Than a Pretty Boy Sing."
A lot of folks have asked me why I'm running the New York City Marathon. It's too risky, some say. What happens if something goes wrong? Do you really think this is a good idea? Why in the world would you do something so dangerous? Are you nuts?
Tim McGraw wrote a song awhile back, "Live Like You Were Dying." Have you ever listened to a song on the radio and it just resonated with you? Well, "Live Like You Were Dying" did it for me.
Just before I had surgery, I experienced a moment of clarity about my life. I was moments away from the unknown and my mind was rambling faster than I could keep up. All I could think about were the things in my life that I had never gotten around to doing. And it was a pretty long list. It wasn't an earth-shattering moment for me --- no bright lights, no voice from on high. But I decided that if I survived the surgery, I was going to do start living life to the fullest --- and for me, that meant running a marathon. I decided it was time to live like I was living.
Since that day, I've done just that. I've seen the sunset over the Golden Gate bridge and I've watched it rise over the majestic peaks of Yosemite. I've played in the surf off Pacific Beach and I've walked in the deserts of New Mexico. And on Nov. 4, I'll be able to mark another item off my list when I run the New York City Marathon.
I'll be honest with you. This has been a rough couple of years for the Starnes family. My own heart surgery aside, my parents were faced with life-threatening illnesses also.
I loved my dad. He was a good man --- better than I'll ever be. He knew what it meant to earn a day's pay. Dad was an electrician. He found work wherever he could --- and sometimes that meant packing up the family and moving to different cities and towns. Growing up, we didn't have a lot of money, but my father always provided for us. He was a patriot and had a deep devotion to God -- and my father expected the same from his sons.
Dad was named after his father and I was named after my dad. Ironically, all three of us had the same heart defect. I was the only one to survive. Todd James Starnes Jr. died last year. He was 65-years-old.
My mother had been ill for quite some time --- the result of a lifelong addiction to nicotine. Her final six months were spent hooked up to a respirator with me sitting by her side. When I was a little boy, my mom would hold me in her lap and read me stories and sing songs. Now, we found our roles reversed as I held her hand and read her passages from the Bible.
On the night of July 12, I was about to anchor the network news when I received the telephone call. The voice identified himself as a police officer and in a slow monotone voice he recited the obligatory words --- "I am sorry to inform you..." My mother was gone. She was 60-years-old.
And suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a great sense of loneliness.
There's an old song we used to sing in church. I don't remember all of the words but there's a line that goes something like this:
There's a land that is fairer than day and by faith we can see it afar. For the Father waits over the way to prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.
My faith has sustained me in this season of sorrow because I know that one day I will see them both again.
You know something, my folks never went sky diving. I don't believe they ever went Rocky Mountain climbing either. And I know for a fact, they never ran the New York City Marathon. But when I stand on the starting line, they will be there with me in spirit. I hope they know their son has chosen to live like he was living.