“Until Then” is a song that wrote itself, and then started banging on my heart from the inside, begging to be let out. I simply became the scribe who put the words and the music to paper.

About four months after Ashley died, Susan and Justin and I took a trip from our home in Texas to visit some friends in Tennessee and then spend a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains. Driving late at night, somewhere between Memphis and Nashville, the idea for a song began growing in my head.

It was a tribute to the remarkable life of my Ashley, her profound impact on our lives as her family, and the deep emptiness left in our hearts by her death. But even amidst the palpable sadness of our grief, I found my thoughts, and the emerging song, focusing on the hope that is inherent in my faith — the promise that, one day, we will see her and hold her once again.

The more we drove, the more the song grew and began to organize itself into verses and a chorus. I asked Susan to find some paper and a pen and start writing down the words so that I wouldn’t forget them. I drove and Susan wrote, and by the time we reached Nashville, “Until Then” was a song.

The next day, I reluctantly shared my song with the Dabbs family, our Nashville friends, and they liked it. Over the next several months, I continued to share “Until Then” with a few people here and there, and was always pleased with the feedback I received.

Jeremy Pate, a dear friend and fellow youth minister, heard the song and offered to record an instrumental track to go behind the lyrics. He and his cousin Steve Agee proceeded to do just that. They got together and recorded a guitar and drum track.

Another good friend, Randy McCoy, was running a professional recording studio in Fort Worth at the time. I shared with him my desire to get a good recording of “Until Then” using the instrumental track provided by Jeremy and Steve. Randy offered to help.

On Thursday evening, December 2, 2004, I met Randy at the recording studio. Jeremy and my son Justin were with me. The first step was to record my vocals on top of the instrumental track, often re-recording a single phrase several times to get it just right. It was a fascinating and tedious process.

After the lead vocals were recorded, Jeremy and Justin each took their turn at the microphone, Jeremy singing high harmonies and Justin singing low harmonies.

To have Jeremy help with the vocals, after having already contributed enormously to the project by providing the instrumental track, was very special. To have Justin be such an integral part of this project commemorating the life of his beloved big sister was meaningful beyond description.