Pop singer-songwriter Amy Grant initiates a tender table talk on the beautiful realities of aging parents – especially those dealing with dementia. Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations–subscribe below!


TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW

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Mark: Today’s episode is with a legend in Christian music and pop music.

Andrew: Pop music.

Mark: Amy Grant is here today on Dinner Conversations, and I’m very excited. I first heard her sing “Father’s Eyes.” If you don’t know that song, “Father’s Eyes” by Amy Grant, Google it.

Andrew: Did you have it on a cassette tape?

Mark: I had it on a little album first and then of course cassette.

Andrew: And then CD and downloads.

Mark: How did you get to know Amy?

Andrew: You know, Amy, I got to meet her through my good friend Cindy Morgan, and through that, I have become the recipient of what I believe is Amy’s beautiful friendship. She is a warm, inviting, accepting, open-hearted person, so kind. And what I really love about her, and I think we experienced this on set today, is that when you’re in the company of Amy, you can just be yourself. We had a great conversation about losing her parents. She just lost her father, losing both of them through the journey of dementia. And of course that’s a personal journey for you too.

Mark: Yeah. And you’re gonna love this conversation. And there’s one seat left at that table, and it’s yours. Let’s join the conversation.


Mark: So, Amy Grant, how are you? “Father’s Eyes” was the first time I ever heard of Amy Grant.

Amy: Really?

Mark: Oh yeah. I was in Houston, Texas, and I fell in love with that song because it was speaking to me. And then I followed–

Andrew: It was the year before I was born.

Mark: It probably was.

Amy: That puts it all in perspective.

Mark: It was probably ’80, was it ’80 something?

Amy: I recorded in that in 1979. And it was written by Gary Chapman.

Mark: And what a lyric. I was already in love with lyrics at that time.

Amy: Yeah.

Mark: And anything that spoke to my young heart. ‘Cause I’m a few years older than you, but you started early.

Amy: I did.

Mark: You were how old when you started?

Amy: Fifteen when I started writing songs, and I was 17 when my first record came out. But it just barely. It just came out kind of like, the way dew appears on grass. No one like… The big thunderstorm, you just sort of showed up.

Mark: What was that album?

Amy: That was just a record called by my name.

Andrew: Did you have any clue? I mean, did you know what was ahead? Did you even think about what could be ahead?

Amy: Oh gosh, no. I just, you know, I loved music. I mean, this is still true. I am as happy in the crowd as I am on stage. I just, through a strange set of circumstances, got the opportunity to make music. And nobody cared. I mean nobody. I was in high school, and it wasn’t a big deal. And I told a few friends but not many, in case it was a total flop. I didn’t want anybody’s sympathy. It was not a career path, you know. I just loved music. And I knew a lot of people who were much more talented than I was. So I was kinda like going, how did I get this shot? But I did. And I felt that way a lot in my life. Like I’ll get a call to do something. And I remember asking a producer one time, like was there a nuclear blast and all female singers were killed and so I got the call?

Mark: Really?

Andrew: Is that how you felt when we called?

Amy: Close.

Mark: When did you realize, OK, this is really taking off, and how have you dealt with your insecurities about that? How do you fix that? Just get out and do it?

Amy: Well, the first question.

Mark: Right, I did ask three. I’m sorry.

Amy: I was a senior in college. I did not graduate, but I was into my fourth year of college, and all my friends were getting serious jobs, like a lot of people were just interviewing. And up to that point, everything, it just felt like, oh, what a fun weekend thing to do. And I just kept thinking, ooh, I need to do something serious. I think I need to get a real job.

Andrew: So music still felt like a hobby. It still felt like this is on my spare time.

Amy: Yeah, and I think it’s because of the amount of space it took up in my head, and as weird as this sounds, it still takes up the same amount of space.

Mark: Which means?

Amy: It means that I love doing it, but I don’t wake up and go to sleep thinking about music. I don’t wake up… And so I don’t know if that was just how I managed my expectations, I don’t know if it’s how I managed my insecurity, but it’s just–

Mark: It’s not your all, like you’re not addicted to it.

Amy: Well, I guess not. I mean, I love it. But I create… There’s so many ways that creativity expresses itself in life.

Andrew: I think about songs, like when he talks about “Father’s Eyes,” and I think about now your perspective, that’s what, 30 going on 40 years ago, can you believe that? Do you, when you sing those songs, when you think about those songs, or just think about that music that was coming out of you at that age and that time, do you still relate to that, or is it kinda like a distant memory?

Amy: Well, it’s all those things. I mean, some of that… I mean, it’s just like anything that you did when you were in high school or just out of school, you kinda go, oh my gosh. I mean, you’re the same person, but you just grow and change.

Mark: And you wouldn’t have said it quite like that maybe.

Amy: Well, like with “Father’s Eyes,” I just sang Gary’s lyric. But it’s funny how a song like that, the meaning, some songs the meaning deepens. And then becomes nostalgic for all kinds of different reasons. But I find that with every song. You sing it ’cause you’re coming at it from one vantage point. And then something will happen in life and then suddenly you go, oh my gosh, I’ve got a song that just fits this.

Mark: Yeah.

Amy: But that’s just perspective, you know, it’s always changing.

Andrew: I think about perspective, OK. So your dad just crossed over to the other side.

Amy: That’s right.

Andrew: A few weeks ago, and your mom passed a few years before that. And so now I remember, this is why this comes to mind, I remember talking to my mother, who… My grandfather died maybe four or five years ago. Her mother had died several years before that. And I was just talking to her after my granddad died. We’re all very close. She was very close to her parents, and I said, “How do you feel? How does it feel to…” There were a lot of raw emotions, but what I remember her saying is, “I feel a little displaced.” She said, “Because I’m the top of the chain now. I am the matriarch,” is what she kept saying. Even though she has brothers and sisters, of her family, she is now at the top. Do you feel, even with all the emotion of losing your father, do you feel some of that placement?

Amy: I mean, I…

Mark: You’re next, is what he’s trying to say.

Amy: I do feel like… Yeah. I mean you feel a little bit hedged in when you can look down the road.

Mark: Yeah, the conveyor belt.

Amy: And go, he’s much older than I am. I mean, he’s my dad.

Mark: At least he looks it.

Amy: But I think because my father had such a long battle with dementia, like the first thing I felt when he passed, it was best said by my sister Kathy. She said, “You know when you travel overseas, like for every time zone difference you’ve been in, it takes about that long to adjust.” So if you are in Southeast Asia, you can still wake up two weeks from now in the middle of the night ’cause it’s 14-15 hour difference. And right after my dad passed, she said, “The last eight years I don’t even know what time zone you’ve been in.” And that was really how it felt. For about two weeks, I just remember kinda like really feeling untethered. Not by own mortality, but just, I mean not thinking about I’m next, or even the baton has been passed. What’s this? Oh, I’m holding it, oh my gosh. But it just felt unfamiliar. And our routine of how we cared for him, so I felt–

Mark: Did you all take care of him yourself?

Amy: No, we had professional round-the-clock care in an efficiency apartment. It was just what worked best for him, and he had saved and planned and set aside, so we were using all of his resources. Anyway, the first thing I felt was I felt untethered from my sisters.

Andrew: ‘Cause this was a joint unified effort.

Amy: Yes. And we would at least once a week try to all be with dad together. And as he lost language, it just became the catch up for us. And my dad’s always been surrounded by the voices of women. And so we thought even he’s not participating, but this is familiar to him. And that has been a big adjustment. And then I packed my suitcase. I had one gig at the Wild Goose Festival, and then I just traveled. I went to New Hampshire and visited a college friend. I was in North Carolina, a high school friend, hiking in a thunderstorm, I went to Colorado. I went to Boston to see Vince with The Eagles. It was just like I felt like nobody was waiting on me. And I wasn’t letting anybody… Wasn’t leaving anybody in the lurch. And that was really fun.

Mark: How many years did he have that dementia?

Amy: We started noticing it in 2009, and then he passed.

Mark: About nine years.

Andrew: Your dad, as a doctor, and someone who I would think knowledge was a resource for him and something he collected and loved and used as an exercise in his profession, but pride in his life too. And being a father of girls. But I’m sure wisdom was something he loved to impart. To lose those faculties. Not even thinking about him, but you guys. I just think about it in relation to my parents. I’ve gleaned so much from them. I love being in their company, hearing their words, their language, their advice. To begin to lose that, it’s hard.

Andrew: But you’ve lost him twice. That’s the thing with dementia, you lose them twice.

Amy: Well, that first goodbye is long and slow. But you’re right. One of my sisters battled cancer for a while, and she’s great now. But you know, she just said, “I want so bad to be able to talk to dad.” ‘Cause he was in radiation oncology. You know, but mm-mm. But when he first started losing it, like you would get a voicemail. My sister played one for me and he was trying to talk to her, and then he’d be like, “Come on, Burt, come on.” Like talking to his own brain.

“That first goodbye is long and slow.” – Amy Grant

Mark: Oh my God.

Amy: And we chose to speak as openly as possible with him about what was going on. And so I don’t, you know… Oh my gosh, I remember being out at our farm, which none of us have ever lived there, but we have just enjoyed getting away there. And I loved taking my parents out there. And at the time, I had a little golf cart that I would just… Just moving my mom from the circle where everybody was sitting to the outhouse. Sounds awful to make an 80+ year-old woman use an outhouse, but it’s all we had. But I was motioning to my son, going, this is you and me, buddy. I want a golf cart ride to the outhouse. Got this? And he’s on the other side of the circle with a lot of family. He’s going like this, straight to the home.

Mark: Well, I can tell him how to do that. My mom had dementia and my dad was trying to take care of her. And finally, we said, “Daddy, we can’t let her kill you.” And so he agreed, and we told her she was going to the hospital for tests, and that satisfied her. But she went to a home. But he came every day, and she was only in there seven months. And her last words were, “I’m going to the light on the other side.”

Amy: Wow.

Mark: Isn’t that cool? So the dementia thing for us wasn’t as long, but it is a double goodbye, you know?

Amy: Yeah. Well, you know, life is… Everybody’s life is unique. And we, you know… I think we’re given the tools for a unique journey that we’re gonna be on. That’s part of faith is just trusting that you have what it takes. And you know, I’m kind of a tree nut. I have more enthusiasm than I do knowledge. But we’ve done two different small loggings of trees at our farm. And looking at the growth rings on a tree, they… You know, if like I’ll say, well, this black walnut was very strong or this ash, whatever. But you know, the growth rings on a tree are tight, which makes for really strong wood when the times are hard. And the growth rings are very relaxed when there’s enough water, enough sunshine, enough…

“Everybody’s life is unique. I think we’re given the tools for a unique journey that we’re gonna be on. That’s part of faith is just trusting that you have what it takes.” – Amy Grant

Mark: Interesting.

Amy: And I do feel… I feel like I got some tight growth rings. And you can’t undo that. You can’t undo loss of innocence, you can’t undo a new toolkit for problem-solving skills. But I mean that’s what we all go through, that’s life.


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Mark: Does it ever concern you that you might… My brother and I have talked about dementia. I mean does that worry you at all, that you might get it?

Andrew: Do you worry?

Mark: Do you ever think you might have it?

Andrew: I just have never known you to be…

Mark: ‘Cause sometimes I think why did I come in this room?

Amy: Yeah.

Mark: Have you gotten there yet?

Amy: Oh, yeah. I mean every time I lose anything–

Andrew: I think you did that when you came in here.

Mark: Why’d I come in this room?

Amy: Yeah, no every time you lost the car keys, it’s like… But you just can’t…

Mark: Worry, no.

Amy: Yeah, you can’t worry about that.

Andrew: He said that your mom said going to the light on the other side. I distinctly remember this. I must have been maybe in junior high, and a few of us went to a show of yours. It was right after Rich Mullins had died, and you were doing a song or something in tribute of him. And you said something to that effect of, “Now that Rich is on the other side.” And I remember in my very young perspective and experience just so deeply identifying with that, even at the age. That was the first time I had heard death as kind of that definition. And I think the identification was already knowing, at 11 or 12 or 13, that I am in this life, present in this body, and a beautiful life it is. But I mean pining for what is not yet. Do you find yourself, even… Especially in–

Mark: You mean like for Heaven and all?

Andrew: Yeah. Well, and to be complete. I mean even more than a place. I want to be as I was created to be, which I believe we’re just not yet. Do you find yourself in that kind of not yet, in between the ever after, you know, really pining for that even more?

Mark: Because you’ve got more people over there?

Andrew: Maybe so.

Amy: Yeah, I mean, at different times, I feel different things. I mean I, as a high schooler, I went to such a vibrant, alive church. And this was in the 70s, and everything was Maranatha, which means “come, Lord Jesus.” But I remember going, please don’t come until I’ve had sex, I really wanna be a mom. There were always things that I really looked forward to. And so I was like, I mean, yes, I want you to come, but this is beautiful.

Andrew: Right, yeah. Meaningful and…

Mark: And grand babies, you got that coming too, or have you already got ’em?

Amy: I have two grandchildren from Vince’s daughter Jenny. And I’m crazy about ’em.

Mark: How old are they?

Amy: Four and seven months.

Mark: Ooh, that’s a good age.

Amy: I know. Four-year-old spent the night last night.

Mark: Really?

Amy: Yeah.

Andrew: The battle is on.

Amy: It was good, it was good. But yeah, I think I just… I don’t want to outlive my brain or my body. I would love to just be grateful for the day that I’m in. And it’s hard and sad to see people… To see anyone that has outlived their curiosity or outlived their joy or outlived their mind.

Mark: Yes. It’s tough when you’ve outlived your mind.

Andrew: Is that where you’re at?

Mark: No, but I was thinking about a friend. You know Sheri Easter, by chance?

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Mark: Her momma had Parkinson’s and just passed. And I’d go visit her when I’d go see them, you know. And she was literally awake, alive inside. But she couldn’t even open her eyes. And that’s when I think, where is the Lord in all of that? I mean, why? And is it wrong to give ’em a little push? I’m serious. ‘Cause we just put our dog down.

Amy: Like give people a push? This just got really weird.

Mark: I mean is it wrong? Now this is going… I’m doing a U-turn here, but none of this will make the tape or all of it will. But no, if you were dying, where do we get it in the Bible that we can’t help people get on to glory?

Andrew: Well, maybe even reorienting that idea is like we’ve extended our lives synthetically to some degree.

Mark: There you go.

Andrew: And I think that’s the heart behind what you’re saying is–

Mark: No, not really. It probably is.

Amy: I was invited, this has been a few years ago, to a dinner party that Senator Frist gave, and this was the invitation: Let’s have dinner and talk about dying.

Mark: I love that.

Amy: And I went, oh my gosh. And then he sent out an invitation, I mean a guest list. There were 30-some odd people there, and it was our names, where we lived, and then some description of who we were. But when I–

Mark: I thought there was gonna be a birthdate and a dash.

Amy: No, yeah, that’s a good idea. But everybody had… It was sort of comical, you know. And we showed up, and we were told that it was gonna be basically a led conversation. But as a doctor, he said, “Seventy-five percent of people say they wanna die at home. Twenty-five percent do. End of life care is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy.” And he said, “We should make some decisions ahead of time, have a plan.” And as you were saying, I think, do not resuscitate is a plan that a lot of people are starting to choose because there’s so many options that people will outlive quality of life.

Andrew: It sounds dark, but isn’t that kinda… I feel like that’s kinda giving life quality. To die gracefully or graciously.

Mark: If you can.

Andrew: Right.

Mark: You don’t get to choose your exit, usually. But if you have any input into that, I would say painless. I don’t mind dying. I honestly can’t wait. It’s the only thing I haven’t done. I am looking forward to it. I don’t like pain.

“I don’t mind dying. I honestly can’t wait. It’s the only thing I haven’t done.” – Mark Lowry

Amy: OK.

Mark: OK. Do we got that straight? She’s like… No, but dying doesn’t scare me, but getting there.

Andrew: Sure, the physical aspect of it.

Amy: Yeah, who knows. Yeah, you’re right.

Andrew: Where do you wanna take that?

Amy: I just wanna go to… There’s so much about today that is worth engaging in, and so I don’t really even…

Mark: Entertain it.

Amy: You know, I tell myself what I tell my kids. You’re still breathing. OK, people are more important than things. Just keep breathing and we will figure it out from here. And so yeah, I mean…

Mark: Take it as it comes.

Amy: Just take it as it comes.

Mark: My dad always says that, I’m taking it a tick at a time.

Amy: Yeah.


Andrew: So this is how we first met.

Mark: It is.

Andrew: In chairs like these, talking to… This is the moment–

Mark: And we really should have just left it there, shouldn’t we?

Andrew: I was gonna say it’s the moment that changed your life, the trajectory of your entire late life.

Mark: Late.

Andrew: Yeah, exactly. You know what I wanna talk about today is your mother, Bev.

Mark: Bev.

Andrew: Anyone who has even seen our show, but even more so has followed your career, seen you in concert, or known you through the years, knows that your mom has had some influence on you, some kind. What kind of influence do you feel like your mom has had on you?

Mark: You know, it’s interesting now that she’s dead. I see her differently, and I saw her see her mother differently when her mother died. She and her mother had a very contentious relationship. I mean, it was really contentious.

Andrew: From both sides?

Mark: Well, I only saw one side ’cause I was on my mother’s… I was at the house when she would hang up the phone on her mother and then say, “I love her, but I don’t like her.” And that’s where I first learned that you could love someone and not like them. And… No. Well, you know, and during my time, years with my mother, we got into some heated arguments. I mean, anger, angry, ’cause we were so much alike, I think. And she had an opinion about stuff that I didn’t want her to have an opinion about.

Andrew: Like?

Mark: Like anything to do with my career, because when I joined the vocal band, ’cause she was a part of my life in my career, I had a career at 11. So she was part of all that.

Andrew: Kinda manager mom a little bit.

Mark: Yeah, maybe. And then when I joined the vocal band, I moved into a world she knew nothing about, right? And so I would come home with new problems and she would wanna give her own opinion, so I just quit coming home with any problems at all. I knew not to discuss anything to do with stuff that she doesn’t know.

Andrew: So did that kinda… I mean, if you can’t bring your problems home to your mom.

Mark: No, I just, I wanted… I didn’t have any problems. Being in the vocal band was the easiest gig I’ve ever had. There were no problems, but I couldn’t discuss anything because… I didn’t really want to anyway. I didn’t come home to talk about life on the road. I came home to be her son and be with my family and go see my friends. But I came home rarely when I got on the road ’cause I was on the road all the time. But I reminded her often that you gave me to God. She would always tell me that growing up, “I gave you to God before you were born.” And she did. She lost the baby before me, she nearly lost me, and so she said… And she laid in bed for seven months ’cause her water broke with me at three months.

Andrew: That early? 

Mark: Three months into the pregnancy her water broke, so she had to lay down for seven months.

Andrew: To keep you from…

Mark: Or whatever, six months.

Andrew: Crawling out.

Mark: Yeah, well the doctor said, “You’re not pregnant.” And I was on the inside of her naval holding on for dear life, saying, “Yes, she is.”

Andrew: You were gonna make it.

Mark: So while she was in bed, she over and over prayed and gave me to the Lord, so she reminded me of that my whole life. And I felt special because of it. Well, when the Lord called me to do what I’m doing and I left, I left at 17 and I never looked back. I mean, that’s what you do. I’m not a millennial, we leave home, you know? And when I would go home, she would be so smothering, ’cause I was home so rarely, that it made me come home less, because I can’t breathe.

Andrew: You felt like controlled a bit or?

Mark: I wanna go home and see my friends too. So that was really aggravating. So there was all that but when they die, and I always used to make fun of momma ’cause I said she’s rewriting history. ‘Cause after her mother died she became a saint.

Andrew: Her mom did.

Mark: Yeah. Not another negative word.

Andrew: Really?

Mark: Ever. It was like a whole new person emerged.

Andrew: Did you ever ask her about that?

Mark: Oh yeah. You know me, I’m gonna ask. But the truth is, when I explained this to Gloria one time, Gaither. I said, telling her about this, and she said, “But you know, that’s just like when you go to heaven. “All the negative’s gonna fall away.” ‘Cause I do have trouble remembering the negative about her now. I have to make myself remember it if I’m going to remember it. ‘Cause now I remember all the good. I remember that I’ve never known anyone love Jesus, or believe in Jesus, I don’t know how much she loved him, but she believed in him. I think she loved him too. And it caused me to. I mean, we talked about Jesus like I talk about Andrew. It was as real as you are. So that was good.

Andrew: And same.

Mark: And same, and similar. Yeah, he had two eyes also.

Andrew: Handsome little devil.

Mark: Yeah.

Andrew: I think about your mom. I do wanna talk about the last few years of your mom’s life. She had dementia the last–

Mark: Three years.

Andrew: Three years of her life.

Mark: That we know of.

Andrew: OK. Tell me, when did that… When did it dawn on you or when did you finally have that realization that she’s gonna lose her mind before she takes her last breath?

Mark: When my dad called and said the doctor said she’s in the fourth stage. How do you get to the fourth stage without somebody knowing it? But my dad said he’d already… He knew it. Because when she went to a lunch meeting with some of her girlfriends, that she had done a million times, and couldn’t remember how to get there. That’s when he first knew something was up. So I’d heard someone say the problem with dementia is you lose them twice. That wasn’t an original thought. But I heard someone say that, and then I watched it with her. But it wasn’t bad because she forgot all her dogma, which I didn’t agree with anyway. So it was great, actually.

“I heard someone say the problem with dementia is you lose them twice.” – Mark Lowry

Andrew: Become more tender, or?

Mark: She became much sweeter. She became not so concerned with what you believe but just that you are. It became like it should have been all along.

Andrew: How interesting.

Mark: She no longer was slipping a cassette into my pocket of a new song she wrote.

Andrew: Interesting. So you experienced a side of your mother…

Mark: She became a fan when I joined the vocal band and quit being my mother, which was odd. I would go home and lay on the couch, and she’d be taking pictures of me like a fan would do. OK, now that was odd.

Andrew: Yeah.

Mark: But when the dementia came, I got three years of her not… She didn’t even remember I was in anything. I mean, she remembered me, but she didn’t remember anything else. She didn’t remember she wrote “I Thirst.” Oh, she was so proud that she wrote that. Like I’m proud I wrote “Mary Did You Know?” I mean, she should have been proud. The cathedrals sang it and it became a big Southern gospel song. But the last week of her life, we were singing it in the nursing home. She knew every word. And at the end of it, she… I asked her, “You know who wrote that, right?” She said, “No, who?” I said, “You did.” She said, “Oh, I did?” And then she said, “That’s pretty good.” Which I thought was cute.


Mark Lowry and Beverly Lowry singing “I Thirst”

Thirst

Yet He made the sea

“I thirst,” said the King of the ages

In His great thirst He brought water to me

Mark: You know who wrote that?

Beverly: Who?

Mark: You know who wrote that.

Beverly: No, I don’t.

Mark: You wrote it.

Beverly: Oh, I did?

Mark: Yeah. You sure did. You’re good–

Beverly: That’s good.

Mark: You’re a good songwriter. But it was nice ’cause she still remembered Jesus, which we could talk about Him, which I loved. And she knew every word to every song, every hymn, the harmony.


Andrew: When I think about, you know we talked with Amy about her parents both experiencing dementia, talked about the two goodbyes. And the interesting process of seeing someone you know begin… Their memory, I guess, begin to diminish. I don’t know if their mind diminishes. Their memory, right?

Mark: What it is, it’s like a VHS tape, it was explained to me by the head of the… I did a concert for Alzheimer’s big operation in Dallas. And he said, “It’s like a video cassette tape.” He said, “And you run through your whole life.” He said, “You get to the end and it starts erasing from the end.” He said, “It erases from the most recent to your childhood.” So you could ask momma, “What year is it?” “1947,” she’d say. Or I told her one day, I said, “Daddy’s coming.” Well, she thought her daddy was coming. And she jumped up, “Oh, is he? Is he here?” And I realized, oh my God, she’s thinking her dad’s coming. So it’s like the memory, that’s the way they explained it to me.

Andrew: So it’s almost as if they’re becoming a child again then, if they’re going that route, and there’s some of that innocence probably of the childhood too. You’ve said a lot not only on our show but I’ve heard you say before, too, you know like about grief. We’ve talked about grief on our show. We talked it about with Chonda and Ken Davis. And you’ve kind of eluded to I’m not sure that I grieve in that way or that I’m actively grieving. Like we kinda talk about experiencing grief a lot. And then especially in relationship to your mother, that–

Mark: Well, I didn’t see her that much.

Andrew: When she was, in the past.

Mark: When she was living. I saw her two or three times a year ’cause I was on the road all the time. I mean all the time. And I didn’t live there. And Lynchburg is not easy to get to. You gotta be headed there to go there. I mean, to even go through it, you just don’t, it’s out of the way. So maybe that’s why when daddy called me after… We had Thanksgiving on Thursday. Monday she dies. And dementia doesn’t kill you, it just… You know, you die from something else, but you lose your mind, you just live like that. But she did, she died, she had a heart attack. And he called me and said, “Your mother died.” He said, “Your mom went to be with Jesus tonight.” And it’s like someone hit me in the stomach. And I cried there just for a brief second, more so for him ‘cause I heard it in his voice. ‘Cause 62 years of marriage, and it seemed like he loved her more now than back then. He would sit and hold her hand. I never saw them sit and hold hands. And he just doted over her. That’s why it took him forever to let us put her in a nursing home, because he said, “No, she’d do this for me. I’m gonna do it for her.” Well, I saw him dying.

Andrew: Right, trying to take care of her.

Mark: Yeah, and I said, “Nuh-uh, I’m stepping in here. “I know she’s your wife, but she’s my mother and I get a vote too. And you’re not the best person to be taking care of her.” And so he agreed with that. And it was so wonderful. Anybody dealing with that, put ’em in a home. Trust me, you walk in, if it smells like pee, you walk out. That’s how you find a nursing home. And there are people who love, that feel called to this, and we found one in Bedford, Virginia. And daddy then became her husband again and not her caretaker. And that needs to be separated in their minds.

Andrew: For your dad’s sake.

Mark: For my mother’s sake ‘cause she would get mad at him. And he’s the care… She can get mad at the caretaker, but she would never get mad at him if he was just her husband.

Andrew: So do you think grieving, like you say, she’s kicking up gold dust, she should be…

Mark: Well, I believe what we sing about. I believe the message of Jesus, that God sent Him to us to take us home, to deliver us. So if I say I believe, and I really do believe it. I mean, it’s not hard for me to say that because I really do believe it. That she’s in Heaven, and she’s got a great mind now. And now she knows God is as sweet as I told her all along He was. We used to argue about that. She’d call and say, “The fear of God’s a beginning of wisdom.” And I’d say, “But perfect love casts out fear. “How do you fear someone who loved you enough to die for you, momma?” I don’t fear God. Nothing in me fears God. I adore Him, can’t wait to see Him. If everything I’ve heard about Him is true.

“I don’t fear God. Nothing in me fears God. I adore Him, can’t wait to see Him. If everything I’ve heard about Him is true.” – Mark Lowry

Andrew: Yeah, in awe.

Mark: He’s more wonderful than I’ve ever dreamed. And there’s nothing to fear. He’s a welcoming, loving Father, who wants you to run boldly into His presence and jump up in His lap, like every healthy father has been an image of that for years. But the dementia took all that away, all the fear of God, all the dread. She loved Jesus, but she’s scared of the daddy.

Andrew: Kinda legalist.

Mark: Yeah, ’cause Jesus came between her and the Father and took the beating. And so she’s a little leery of daddy. Well, she never got that when you see Jesus, you’ve seen daddy. Jesus is the Father. They’re all one. It’s hard, you gotta go ask Richard Rohr.

Andrew: That’s right, yeah.

Mark: But The Divine Dance I think explains that really well. The Trinity, I’m reading that right now. So I think she’s gonna be a blast. You know I don’t know why I don’t grieve. It’s a lot of wasted time. They wouldn’t want you to.

Andrew: And some people grieve, I think… I’ll speak for me. My grief would be for… That maybe I’m still, and I think this is the idea of what you’re saying maybe, is that I’m still here in this kind of broken world.

Mark: They should be grieving.

Andrew: Yeah.

Mark: For me.

Andrew: And so I experience that as that’s what I call grief.

Mark: Well, I say that in… I say momma’s kicking up gold dust. I’m looking at you, let her grieve. Now I’ve said that and that’s a joke, but it’s true, too. I don’t think there’ll be any grieving in Heaven. I mean, what’s to grieve? Unless they can still see down here.

Andrew: Sure. But even then, maybe they have a different perspective.

Mark: Right. Oh yeah. Oh, no doubt. If we could see what’s going on behind the scenes, what God’s up to something. As Gloria Gaither says, it’s eternal and it’s for our good. I think when we get home, He is gonna replay our lives, like we’ve always dreaded. But it’s not to embarrass us but to show us how He was working behind the scenes to get us home. It was a lot more work than you ever dreamed. And you just thought you were stumbling through coincidence after happenstance. And I’ve been working my butt off to get you home.

Andrew: And maybe that’s even part of the grief, I keep thinking, is that I want to see behind the curtain more. You know, yearning to see and know.

Mark: When someone dies that I have seen every day, or I’ve been in contact with every day, I might grieve. But I have not really, I’m never around anybody very long. Which is kinda sad when you think about it. But I like my life for what it is, I don’t… I mean, I have blissfully, airheadedly danced all the way through it. And I’ve really enjoyed it. Even the bad stuff. I look back, it’s wow, I learned from that. I got a good story outta it. That was 20 minutes.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s right.

Mark: That’s 20 minutes of material I don’t have to worry about. Everything I go through that’s horrible, I just look for the diamonds, and they’re there. They’re everywhere. Especially when the world’s falling apart. Especially when you get a doctors report. Especially when you hit Shepherd Drive face first without a helmet. They’re diamonds. And while we’re here, it’s only 80 years if you’re lucky. When you look at eternity, that’s a blip in time. Just, you know, hold on and trust Jesus and you’ll get through it.

Andrew: Hold on, you got 20 more.

Mark: Maybe. No one knows.


Dinner Conversations Sponsorship Message

Mark: Dinner Conversations is brought to you by Food For The Hungry, a relief and development organization serving those in need around the globe for more than 40 years.

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Mark: And while you’re there, check out our Season One DVD with all of our past episodes and some bonus stuff, as well as check out these cool show mugs.

Andrew: Yeah. So when we have our next conversation you can have coffee with us. Let’s get back to the conversation.


Andrew: In my experience with you, there’s been a lot of openness to people. I do see that in your life and our interactions together. It’s something I hope for my own life to be… To have an openness to be able to receive people and have the capacity to receive them where they are, no strings attached. That’s the sign language for that, no strings attached. Do you feel like there’s something that caused that openness or created or curated that openness in you to allowing people to just be who they are in your company?

Amy: Well, I guess, first off is you try to provide for other people what you hope to be provided for you. And it does go through my head a lot, if I were that other person, what would I just long to be extended to me? And then my mom and dad, they were just… They were gracious, and I would even say probably shy. But I mean, neither one of my parents would like command a room when the crowd came in and oh, here goes my dad telling his favorite stories. Mm-mm, no. But their door was always open. And so you know, I think that I absorbed from my parents. And I think it’s important, through life, we sort of figure out, oh, well, it’s important to close the door sometimes. All those, just the swing of appropriate boundaries, appropriate everything. But you don’t usually learn something until you do it the wrong way, and I have done… Yeah, whatever I’ve done right, I’ve done as many things wrong. I was thinking about some amazing things have happened because I risked and opened the door. And some incredible things have gone wrong. And sometimes at great financial cost. And the only thing I… When my kids are getting involved in something, if they’re working with other people, I just go, people are messy. People are messy. Family’s messy. But if you just go, well, you know… I mean, I really believe that our ultimate fulfillment here and feeling like we’re living a meaningful life, I think it has everything to do with how we connect with other people. Especially need and surplus. So whatever side of the fence you’re on, you’re part of a really important dynamic equation that will bring a heightened sense of purpose to your own life. And so because that’s been my experience, it has become my belief. And so you can’t… You just always, you know… I mean, years ago when my kids were tiny and Mary Chapman, Gary’s mom, taught me a prayer that I still pray every morning. And it’s, God, lead me today to those I need and those that need me, and let something I do have eternal significance. And she said, “Now you’ll never know what that is.”

“You try to provide for other people what you hope to be provided for you.” – Amy Grant

Mark: Yeah.

Amy: And so it’s funny because my daughter Corrina is a senior in high school, and we have traded that prayer back and forth. I can’t believe it, I can’t believe… I mean, even when she’s like… When we’re not getting along great or there’s tension, we’ve not broken that. And sometimes we say it with a foreign accent, sometimes we say it with a dance move, but it’s always that same thing. I had so many early flights on my last work trip and one of them I… It was crazy early and I was on mountain time and I went, oh my gosh, she’s about to get in the car. And I just went, lead me today, dot dot dot. And we finished the prayer via text. Of course, I’m like, please don’t be driving.

Mark: Yeah, right, right.

Amy: But you know, I just… I mean, she’ll figure her life out, but I did think, I wonder when she’s walking out of her apartment or when she has a toddler, I wonder. I am so crazy about all my kids. She’s the only one that I was not sort of in damage control following a divorce because my… Matt, Milly, and Sarah were 11, nine and six when Gary and I split up. And so for all the things that were… I mean, everything had changed. So we were… That was not… That was, you know.

Andrew: Not easy.

Amy: It’s not easy. It’s not easy even when people seem to find a different kind of stability later. It’s about a 10-year tunnel. Five years going in, five years coming out. To have that chance to just not be so laden with guilt. And then to go, hey, guess what, teenagers get mad at your parents anyway, even if it’s not because you had a divorce. They’re just mad. And then I’d be like, this is fantastic.

Andrew: Maybe I didn’t do everything wrong.

Amy: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: Yeah, I think it’s cool, the full circle of life. Even you talking about that you pray a prayer.

Mark: I love that prayer.

Andrew: That Gary’s mom–

Amy: Taught me.

Andrew: Taught you. And you’re now teaching it to your daughter that you and Vince had. I mean, do you think about that sometimes? How cool, how gracious is life, and generous, to extend that kind of grace, I just think.

Mark: And that divorce time, that was tough. I mean, on your career and reputation. I mean, wasn’t it, for a while? But you survived it.

Amy: Yeah. Honestly, when you’re going through something like that, the list of things that matter, career and reputation are not even on the list. When you’re going through it, uh-huh. It’s kinda somebody trying to escape a house fire and wondering if their makeup looks good.

Mark: Oh wow, that’s brilliant.

Amy: Just different. The good news–

Mark: Some would check it. As they’re exiting.

Amy: That’s not real.

Mark: Hold that smoke!

Amy: Yeah.

Andrew: What’s the good news?

Mark: What was the good news?

Amy: Well, I was just gonna say, life has a lot of chapters. And this last summer we were… It was a day of day camp, so I host two weeks of day camp at our farm, Barefoot Republic. And then we provide sort of additional activities because it’s a farm—

Mark: Did you say Barefoot Republicans?

Amy: Mm-hmm. Barefoot Republic, it’s a camp.

Mark: Oh okay.

Andrew: For kids.

Mark: I didn’t know the name of it.

Amy: Anyway, we have about 300 people that are there every day, and my cousin actually does the cooking, but she had a couple of days when she couldn’t. So that is a lot of cooking for these kids. So months ago I find myself with the opportunity to go to Billy Graham’s funeral. And I go by myself, catch a 5:45 flight out of Nashville. I get there, it’s a little bit of a cattle call, but trying to get… You know, I find a seat, and by then, I’ve seen some familiar faces. But I was not familiar with the two people next to me. But it was freezing cold, and so we’re all kinda snuggled together and talking, and it was Cindy and Bubba Cathy from Chick-fil-A. And we’re just talking, and I said, “This might be so incredibly opportunistic and gauche, but is there any chance that you would help me feed 300 children at my farm? One day a week for two weeks.” And they said yes. And you know, I thought, why not ask?

Andrew: Yeah, I love that.

Amy: And the day that they came to the farm was one of the days when Vince came by the camp because camping is not his thing. If he’s gonna sweat, it’s gonna have to be working at a good score of 18 holes. He’s a golfing man, but he’s not… And he doesn’t even come out to camp every year. I think he’s been twice in four summers. But this particular day, Bubba and Cindy were both there. And then Vince came out. I was like this is fantastic. And Bubba brought us a ukulele, and he’s singing songs and all the kids are around. And I said this camp is really about reconciliation between the haves, the have nots, racial reconciliation, cultural reconciliation. It’s kinda good when there’s clashes because then we go, well, now here’s how we reconcile.

Mark: We talk about it.

Amy: Talk about it, approach all that stuff. Anyway, we’re sitting there talking, and I’m so glad that they had a chance to meet Vince. And then in comes a car and rolls the window down, and it’s Gary Chapman, my ex-husband. And he was doing something else with Matt at the farm, and it felt, after all these years, like such a gift, to do the hard work of reconciliation. Which can happen even in a divorce.

Mark: Even where?

Amy: Even in a divorce.

Mark: Yes.

Amy: And so I think people can say I don’t know that I can do the long haul here in the context of marriage. But choose your context, it’s still about reconciliation. And so that has been, you know… I didn’t know that was gonna be part of my journey, any of it.

Andrew: Sure, yeah.

Amy: But now, you know it’s funny ’cause you… You can’t listen to another conversation and go there are a thousand ways that you could live this day.


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Andrew: Nearly one million refugees fled from their home in Myanmar to escape violent persecution. Refugees like Nihab, who crossed the border with her husband and six children. While safe from violence, refugee camp conditions are horrific, and Nihab’s children are always at risk of diseases, many of them deadly.

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Andrew: It’s an incredible opportunity we have, and I think of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25, when He says, “What you have done to the least of these, you have done unto Me.” So give today at fh.org/dinner.


Amy Grant singing “If I Could See”

If I could see what the angels see

Behind the walls, beneath the sea

Under the avalanche, through the trees

Gone would be the mystery

If I could see

If I could hear what angels hear

The thunderous sound of a crashing tear

Holy, holy in my ear

I’d never doubt that God is near

If I could hear

I’d see that love will conquer hate

There’s always hope, it’s not too late

I’d find the truth is easy to believe

If I could see

If I could know what angels know

That death’s goodbye is love’s hello

And spirits come and spirits go

I feel them but they never show

If I could know

If I could stand where angels stand

Watch this world while God commands

And see how love designed this plan

Reminders on His feet and hands

If I could stand

I’d see that love will conquer hate

There’s always hope, it’s not too late

I’d find the truth is easy to believe

If I could see

If I could hear

If I could know

There’s nothing to fear

If I could stand

If I could see

Maybe that’s finally eternity

If I could see what angels see

Behind these walls to you and me

And let the truth set me free

I’d live this life differently

If I could see

I’d see that love will conquer hate

There’s always hope, never too late

I’d find the truth is easy to believe

Just like sunlight shining on my face

I’d feel the presence of Your grace

I’d find the truth and finally be set free

If I could see

If I could see


Andrew: We’re all just finding our way, you know?

Amy: Yeah, yeah. Well, we’re all connected to each other, we are. And years ago, in the middle of personal upheaval, my brother-in-law, who was at the time my manager also, Dan Harrell. He said, “Just as soon as you can stop stoking that fire of anger, do because we’re all gonna be at the same banquet table. Just a heads up.”

Mark: Ooh.

Amy: And he was talking about, obviously, on the other side of this life. But it made me… It just made me think about some tables that my family has been a part of. Yeah.

Mark: I think we’re gonna be surprised when we get home, how full it is. I think Jesus wins.

Amy: Oh gosh, yeah.

Mark: I just believe it. I think we’re gonna be surprised.

Amy: Well, I know my mom’s face, right as she was breathing her last breath. And my mom, she knew a lot of beautiful things in life, and she knew a lot of tragedy as well. Anyway, but she loved everything that had to do with God, everything that had to do with Heaven, everything that had to do with Jesus. I mean, I have so many unread books that she gave me, so many… And she would even say, “I must sound like a broken record.” But she said, “The older I get and the things that “I have lost the capacity to do and the ability to do,” She said, “That faith frontier just gets more exciting.” And so I was like, “Mom, have at it. I’m captive audience, talk all you want.” But as far as just being probably the most verbal person of faith I was consistently around my entire life.

Mark: Your mother?

Amy: Was my mother.

Mark: I’d love to have met her.

Amy: Anyway, but at that moment, like she had not really had much interaction for about 36 hours. And three of us were with her right before she took her last breath and we were singing a little bit, and of course we were choked up. And all of a sudden, I don’t think she really even looked around at anything or anybody for about a day and a half. And her eyes flew open, and she had a look on her face, like she was a four and a half year old at Disney World and there were no lines.

Mark: Wow.

Amy: I mean, it was so incredible. I grabbed for my iPhone, and just held it above her face. I don’t even know that I knew how to… And just…

Mark: Did you get it? Any of ’em turn out alright?

Amy: Yeah, I did. You know, it was a slight fade by then. Because the thing that made me grab it was just, just what I saw. But I mean…

Mark: She saw something, huh?

Amy: It changed the way I feel about death. I mean, I’m so sad when somebody dies early and all the lives that are changed, all the lives. The way it was is over, and there is a new chapter, for everybody, whenever somebody leaves. But I just can’t, with a straight face, say that it’s all bad. ‘Cause it’s not.

Andrew: Yeah. I remember being in Nicaragua, and these women who were in the depths of what we consider poverty, right? Amazing how un-impoverished their hearts were compared to mine. And she said that the reason we can be friends is because… Or the reason that we have a connection and don’t even know each other or speak the same language, she says, is because God is a wild frontier with no boundaries and no borders.

Mark: Yeah.

Amy: That’s beautiful.

Andrew: And I think that’s what we’re entering into, you know, the fullness of that. It’s just that wild frontier. It’s pretty cool.

Mark: Well, I’ve loved watching your journey, it’s been fun, and interesting, and calming. There is a real wisdom with you, that God has given you, Chaz and I have talked about it too. Isn’t he funny?

Amy: Yes.

Mark: But no, God has really gifted you with a… Even with the Women of Faith, there’s just this calm spirit. Are you that way with your kids? Do you ever scream?

Amy: Well, my mother was not a screamer. I’ve screamed probably. I bet it’s been a handful of times.

Mark: Oh, really?

Amy: Yeah.

Mark: My mother was a screamer.

Amy: I think it’s genetic.

Mark: Is it?

Andrew: Really? It’s just natural or not.

Amy: I’m just saying, if you were brought up by a screamer, you’re probably gonna be a screamer.

Andrew: I tell you something that’ll make me scream. Let’s go back to you saying you visiting Boston while Vince is with The Eagles. I just freak out about that. When I first heard, I was like, are you kidding me? That’s a good life right there. That’s a good way to be present.

Mark: That’d be a good mic drop.

Andrew: Yeah, it would.

Mark: Thank you for being with us.

Amy: Sure, yeah.

Mark: Would you eat now?

Amy: Yes.


Amy: I sleep with a good guitar player.

Mark: What did she say?

Andrew: I sleep with a good guitar player.

Mark: That’s funny.

Andrew: Yes, ma’m.

Mark: Yes, you do.

Amy: Wow, I am not…


Mark: Amy Grant. OK.

Andrew: Baby, baby.

Mark: Are we done?

Andrew: We’re done.

Mark: I gotta pee.


Mark: Oh, sweet, sweet Amy. Wasn’t that a great episode? I hope you enjoyed that.

Andrew: You can find more of Amy’s music, so much of her music, through our Amazon affiliate link in our episode descriptions.

Mark: And if you wanna binge watch all of Season Two of Dinner Conversations, you can do that right now on Amazon Prime.

Andrew: So thanks for watching Dinner Conversations with…

Mark: Mark Lowry.

Andrew: And Andrew Greer.

Mark: Yeah. Turning the light on.

Andrew: One question at a time.


Join Mark and Andrew as we support our Dinner Conversations Season Two title sponsor, Food for the Hungry (FH) – a relief and development organization serving those in need around the globe for more than 40 years. 

Partner with us as we partner with FH save thousands of Rohingyan refugee lives in Bangladesh today by considering a generous gift – a gift that will be matched 22-times! And remember, every dollar enters you into the Season Two Grand Prize Giveaway, which includes dinner with Mark and Andrew in Houston, plus more surprises. 

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S02, E01: A Change of Mind featuring Danny Gokey and Dr. Caroline Leaf