The Passion, Destiny and Divine Intervention.
A God Wink that led to a Garth Brooks encounter
Do you believe in Destiny?
That’s the question I posed on the very first post that kicked off The Right Brain Diaries blog in October of 2014. Over the next few months, I shared the chapters of an epic adventure with a real life fairy tale ending to what many deemed an impossible dream: securing the sigs of Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney on a Beatles-themed piano created for East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity.
Since that time, there have been countless rather cosmic experiences that have led back to that same question, over and over again.
This past Sunday, Palm Sunday, was yet another remarkable chapter reinforcing that conviction.
My friend, Eneida Allison, and I, were blessed to secure tickets to “The Passion Live,” a dick clark production staged in the city of New Orleans for a live broadcast on Fox TV. As the days counted down and the media shared behind-the-scenes stories, we became more and more excited. Finally, Palm Sunday arrived and we headed to Woldenberg Park, sandwiched between the Mississippi River and the French Quarter.
As we drove toward the historic district of New Orleans, we could barely contain our excitement. Something just felt extraordinary about this day. Perhaps it was because the event we were about to experience was all about hope and inspiration, at a time the world desperately needs it. We planned to arrive early so that we could stake out a great spot to enjoy the presentation.
Traffic was atypically light, and we arrived at the parking garage as reserved online the night before, located just a block from the event. We happened upon a car exiting right as we arrived, directly in front of the elevator. Score! As we made our way to the park, we noted the lines were shorter than anticipated and, after being advised that there would be no concessions in the park, we opted to grab a bite at a nearby restaurant. I remember mentioning that it seemed like, with everything so effortlessly falling into place (far too many details to list,) it was as if we had won the day’s lottery.
Little did we know, our day was about to get better. Much, much better.
As we returned from lunch, we spotted a lady on the sidelines, holding a clipboard and providing info to people who were making their way toward the event entrance. She had not been there prior to our dining detour. Eneida asked her about the rules of admission, as listed on the tickets, advising as to which items were prohibited within the event.
Of particular interest was the exclusion of large bags.
Eneida, who proudly holds the title of “Deployed Cancer Warrior Princess,” sometimes struggles with side effects of her medications, so she brings items she may need from time to time. The lady smiled, and said she should be just fine.
“In fact,” said the lady, “I’d like to have you join a small group I’ve been asked to gather for viewing the event from The Natchez steamboat,” which was docked on bank of the Mississippi River, adjacent to the stage. As it turned out, she was part of the company hired to coordinate event casting.
We were given directions as to where we should wait for her after going through the entrance gates and security. What a thrill it was to be among the 25 people selected for this opportunity.
And so, shortly before show time, we were led to the steamboat, and made our way to the upper deck with seating. By contrast, chairs were not allowed in the general admission/standing room only area in front of the stage. We also had access to the ship’s bar area, which was serving hot coffee and tea on the unseasonably chilly and windy night. And lastly, we were blessed with access to the Holy Grail, a restroom.
Shortly after we were seated, the event began, with emcee Tyler Perry and an all-star cast, including Jencarlos Canela, Trisha Yearwood, Seal, Daughtry, Prince Royce, Yolanda Adams, Michael W. Smith, Gabriel Conte and Shane Harper.
As the event unfolded, the production was all we had anticipated and more, an emotional roller coaster of love and sorrow, agony and hope, faith and forgiveness, massive in scale and scope. And it was beautiful.
The Last Supper scene in which Jesus, portrayed by Canela, followed a gentle, emotional performance of “Arms Wide Open.” The scene brought Jesus’ revelation that one of his Disciples would soon betray him and another would deny him. It was deeply moving.
Meanwhile, on The Natchez’ upper deck, we were about to experience a revelation of a different kind. It came through the quiet whispers of a couple seated to our left.
“Don’t look now, but that’s Garth Brooks standing behind us.”
And so we tried to remain calm and each of us sneaked a peek to confirm that it was, indeed, true.
All I could think was, “Are you kidding me?”
It was a God Wink that could not be disregarded.
Just last year, I had orchestrated a fundraiser for East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity called “Hope for Habitat: Katrina X,” for which many of the 20 participating artists created works inspired by celebrities, with the dream of securing the celebs’ autographs to maximize fundraising efforts. The event was created to honor the artists for their invaluable roles in rebuilding the spirit of the community of Slidell, the Louisiana city hardest hit by Katrina.
And technically, it was an event that was sparked when Eneida had reached out to me the night she read my gleeful social media post about meeting and acquiring a signature from Sir Paul McCartney for another Habitat fundraiser. She advised she knew a member of the Charlie Daniels band, and asked if I would like for her to see if the band would agree to sign a work of art.
The celebrity who inspired the work I created was Garth Brooks. But the efforts to secure his sig had not been fruitful.
Now, some folks believe there are no coincidences. Only Divine Interventions that bring us to where we need to be, when we need to be there.
“You have to go talk with him,” said Eneida.
I was reluctant at first, because it seemed like a totally inappropriate time. But something inside of me was saying that when Destiny intervenes, we must listen and respond.
Seeking answers and guidance from his Father, Canela belted out a stirring rendition of “Calling All Angels.”
“I need a sign,” he heralded.
I had needed one as well.
So when production paused for a commercial break, I worked up the courage, walked toward Mr. Brooks and said, “I know this is totally uncool…”
He smiled, extended his hand, and said, “What’s your name?”
After introducing myself, I said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I think this is a total God Wink.”
And I told him the story.
As I wrapped it up, he smiled and said he would be happy to sign the artwork, and asked for my contact info.
I then told him what a privilege it was to be present in that moment, how much we were blown away by the production, and how much in awe we were by his wife’s performance as Mary, the mother of Jesus.
My heart melted.
I quickly grabbed a business card out of my purse, handed it to him and thanked him. And half stunned, half elated, I returned to my seat and shared the news with Eneida.
As the commercial break ended, we watched in awe as the massive, 20 foot illuminated cross that had been carried by a crowd from the Superdome, through the French Quarter to Woldenberg Park, came to its final resting place alongside the stage.
It was beside the cross that Yearwood performed an impassioned, gut wrenching rendition of “Broken,” capturing the unfathomable depths of a mother’s grief. Plenty of tears in the house.
Then we heard Canela’s voice representing the risen Jesus. Everyone looked around to see where he was. A spotlight shined toward the rooftop of a nearby hotel (coincidentally, atop the garage in which we had parked.) It was a breathtaking, awe inspiring sight, the climax to the Greatest Story Ever Told, with a contemporary twist.
And the words of the song, “Unconditionally,” took on a whole new meaning. Such a powerful moment.
The show wrapped up with the entire cast taking the stage, second lining to the Preservation Hall Brass Band’s performance of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It was a quintessentially New Orleans ending to a celebration not only of the resurrection of Christ, but also of a city that ten years prior had little hope. What a difference a decade makes.
Massive applause and cheering, lots of tears, rounds of hugs and hope. So much hope.
After the show, Mr. Brooks stepped over to where we were standing. He gave me a hug and said he would be in touch, then kissed Eneida on the cheek, saying she inspired him.
One might may argue that our presence there was just plain luck. But I have no doubt it was yet another instance of Divine Intervention. (After all, for those few hours, Mr. Brooks’ wife was the mother of Jesus. Can’t get much more divine than that!)
Let’s just say Jesus wasn’t the only one who went to Heaven that night.
It seems like, on that day, had we arrived just minutes earlier or minutes later than we did, had we not made the choices and timed detours that we had, it’s likely that nothing would have transpired as it did.
Because in the big picture, what are the odds that of all the celebrities I could have selected for my Hope for Habitat artwork, celebrating our city’s resurrection after Katrina, that I chose the country music legend for mine, and that just months later, due to quite unexpected and extraordinary circumstances, he would be standing just a few feet behind me at an event celebrating the greatest Resurrection of all times?
Divine Intervention at its best.
That night, the air was electric, filled with an overwhelming and joyful sense of hope and spirituality, fulfilling those who attended in such a way that there are no words to adequately describe it. “The Passion” was just spectacular, with stellar performances, incredible production and flawless execution. And New Orleans has never looked more divine.
And in his act of kindness, Mr. Brooks has brought an added sense of promise for the future homeowner whose life will be, in effect, resurrected by a new Habitat home, paid for in part by the funds to be raised by this signed artwork—for a cause that is my Passion.
Oh, and one more thing. The name I had given that artwork itself sums up the entire experience of that chilly Palm Sunday in New Orleans.
It does, indeed.
Do you believe in Destiny?