From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

The Best “Father-Daughter Date” Ever!

Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.

Martin Luther

In early May 1996, my twelve-year-old son, Bobby, and I took a two-week trip with my dad, Rev. Dale McClain. We drove from Venice, Florida, to Stone Mountain, Georgia, to visit my brother. I was recently divorced and considering a possible move to Georgia or North Carolina, depending on the outcome of several interviews I had scheduled during our time there.

What a trip that turned out to be! Bobby, Dad and I told jokes and funny stories all the way to Stone Mountain. I can’t remember when I’ve laughed that much! Traveling with Dad was always a real treat. Unlike the stereotypical “man on a mission,” Dad always took time to stop and enjoy the sights. A beautiful sunset? We’d pull over so we could really see it! If anyone even hinted at being hungry, Dad immediately found a place to eat. He could turn getting a cup of coffee into an event.

After a few days in Stone Mountain, Dad and I left for North Carolina where I had an interview at Montreat College. Leaving Bobby with the family in Georgia, Dad and I took off for another wonderful adventure together, just the two of us on our “father-daughter date,” as Dad always called them. Our dates had spanned the globe, from India to Hong Kong to America. Dad was there, enriching me in every phase of my metamorphosis from toddler to teen to woman.

Some missionary kids—or MKs as we are called—grow up feeling a constant lack of their father’s attention. I was blessed as a child in that I didn’t have that experience. Dad was the most sentimental man I’ve ever known. No matter how intense the schedule, somehow he always took time to be with his children and, often, with each of us individually. I never felt deprived. Dad could cram more love and fun into one game of Monopoly than many fathers do in an entire summer. He never communicated a sense of obligation as a parent; on the contrary, I knew Dad’s greatest delight was to be with his family.

We shared memories like these and many more on the scenic drive to Montreat College. As we walked up a steep incline to the campus, Dad seemed very weak. I wondered if his pulmonary fibrosis was acting up. His lungs were damaged years earlier while ministering in the Philippines where the air was thick with volcanic ash. He had already lived about eight years longer than the doctors projected. They had been good, strong years for the most part. But on this day, he seemed especially weary, older than his seventy-four years.

On our way back to Stone Mountain, Dad and I stopped in at The Cove, Billy Graham’s restful retreat tucked in the mountains near Asheville. We particularly wanted to see the prayer chapel, a beautiful two-story building built among tall pines and glassed in on the second floor. The receptionist told us it was almost closing time, but encouraged us to go upstairs and enjoy a few minutes together anyway.

We were the only ones in the chapel. A late afternoon sun bathed the quiet room in a warm, almost sacred glow. It was so peaceful. God’s presence was there. As we walked hand in hand toward the front, we noticed a beautiful, old grand piano. Reading my thoughts Dad said, “Carol, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you played something. It’s just the two of us anyway.”

That’s all the encouragement I needed! The piano, shipped from Germany, was over one hundred years old. The wood was beautiful, as were the old ivory keys. It was almost surreal, playing that magnificent old piano for my dad in such a serene setting.

I deliberately played the hymns and choruses I knew he loved the most: “And Can It Be,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “So Send I You.” When I looked out at Dad, my heart melted. He was sitting about four rows back, looking at me, tears streaming down his cheeks. Just then the receptionist came in the back and walked to join us.

“That is so beautiful, dear,” she kindly said to me. “Where did you learn to play like that?”

“From her mother,” Dad replied, with obvious pride. “Her mother plays like an angel and has blessed people all over the world with her gift. My daughter has it, too.” Dad wiped the tears away.

“Would you mind if we sang a song together?” she asked me. “I love ‘Amazing Grace.’”

And so the three of us sang all the stanzas of that great hymn. When the song ended, the presence of God was so real that we reverently left the chapel without speaking.

The rest of the drive blurs in my memory. I recall Dad holding my hand most of the time as I drove. But something he told me stands out as a bright jewel, a gift I will always cherish.

I said, “Dad, it was so touching for me to look up and see you crying. I knew you were missing Mother and remembering a lifetime of listening to her play the piano.”

“Oh, no, Honey. That’s not what I was thinking at all. While I was listening to you play, my mind traveled back over the years to the night I drove six hours from Ohio to Lexington, Kentucky.” I knew this story well, but dearly loved hearing it again. “I had just preached the closing sermon in a week of meetings. Your dear mother insisted that I keep my speaking commitment, even though your birth was already two weeks late. A man walked up to me with a big grin, held his hand out, and said, ‘Congratulations, Rev. McClain, you’re a father!’”

Dad’s hand covered mine as he continued. “I was remembering barging into the hospital where a very large nurse tried to catch me as I raced down the hall. She said, ‘Excuse me, sir! You can’t just come in here in the middle of the night to visit your wife!’ I told her, ‘Well, I’m Rev. McClain. My daughter is three days old, and I haven’t seen her yet!’ And that nurse said, ‘Oh! We’ve been waiting for you, Rev. McClain. Come right this way.’”

Now I was the one crying.

“I was thinking about you, and how I’ve loved being your daddy. You could not possibly have brought me more joy than you have, Carol.”

Holding hands, we drove and hummed and prayed on what would be our last date. What a legacy for a father to give his daughter.

Carol McClain Bassett

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