Karen Kingsbury's Inspiring Encounter on the High Line

A chance meeting even this beloved novelist could never have imagined

By Karen Kingsbury, Nashville, Tennessee

As appeared in

I’ve been writing novels for more than 15 years, and I’ll admit it: My imagination can run pretty wild sometimes! I see the stories come to life in my mind way before I ever get them on paper–envisioning the characters and the twists and turns they’ll take on their personal and spiritual journeys.

Then last year something unexpected happened in my own life, something so incredible that even I couldn’t have imagined it.

I’d gone to New York City to meet with my publisher. My daughter, Kelsey, and her husband, Kyle, came with me because they wanted to see the city.

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It was a glorious autumn afternoon. Kelsey, Kyle and I were walking on the High Line–a park built on a historic elevated railroad line above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.

That morning I’d had a dream-come-true meeting with my publisher. My novel The Bridge had become an overnight best seller and they’d signed me to a 10-book deal! I felt so blessed, especially to be able to celebrate with Kelsey and Kyle.

Yet, standing there on the High Line, looking up at the bright blue sky, all I could think was, I wish I could tell Dad about all this.

My father had passed away six years earlier. He was my rock. My very first and biggest fan.

“Have I told you lately that I love you, Dad?” I whispered. That was Dad’s favorite song–the Rod Stewart version of “Have I Told You Lately.” He’d called me the first time he’d ever heard it.

“This song is how I feel about you, Mom, our whole family,” he said. “Whenever you hear it I want you to know that I love you.” I was surprised. Dad wasn’t usually into pop music. But the more I listened to Rod’s distinctive raspy voice belting it out, the more I understood what Dad meant.

“Have I told you there’s no one else above you? You fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness, ease my troubles, that’s what you do.” When one of us heard the song, we’d call the other. Sometimes we’d hear it when we were together and Dad would give me a wink.

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“I can’t say it any better than Rod,” he’d say. The song was that powerful for us. It connected us. So much so that my family had the title engraved on Dad’s headstone.

Not long after Dad died, I began to hear our song at odd but significant moments. Like when my husband, Don, and I were driving home from watching Kelsey and our oldest son, Tyler, in the opening-night performance of the school play–the kind of occasion Dad wouldn’t have missed for the world–and the second we turned on the car radio, there it was.

Or when we took our first family vacation to the Bahamas without Dad. I stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the sparkling sea. “Oh, Dad, you would’ve loved this!” I said. Then I heard a familiar melody.

I looked down onto the deck below and the Bahamian band had switched from playing island music to–yes, you guessed it–“Have I Told You Lately.”

Now here I was, at one of those moments when I knew Dad would have been so proud of me, and I couldn’t share it with him. I missed him more than ever. Lord, I prayed, please tell Dad that I love him.

“How ’bout we take some pictures?” I said to Kelsey and Kyle, hoping to distract myself from missing Dad. “We’ve got this amazing view of the Hudson from up here.”

I pulled out my camera and took some shots of Kelsey, then of her and Kyle together. I wanted to get one of the three of us. I was stretching my arm out, trying to hold the camera far enough away so we were all in the frame, when a man and a woman walked up.

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“I can help take your picture,” the man said to us. He was older than me, dressed stylishly in a sweater and jeans. He had a slight accent. Australian? English? He was a tourist like me, probably. “Would that be okay?”

“Yes!” I said. “Thank you so much.”

“Just show me how to use the camera,” he said.

Kelsey walked over and showed him which button to press, then we got into place again.

He snapped the photo. “That’s lovely!” he said, brushing a wayward strand of blond hair from his eye. He handed me the camera. “God bless you,” he said, then he and the woman went on their way.

When they were almost out of sight, Kelsey turned to me. “Mom, did you hear what that man said when I was showing him how to use the camera?”

“No, honey, I didn’t.”

“He said, ‘I’m usually on the other side of this thing. But this is fun too.’”

“Why would he say that?” I wondered aloud.

Then it dawned on me: the spiky blond hair, the fashionable clothes, the lilt in his voice…. Could it be?

I followed the couple, walking as fast as I could.

“Sir, sir! Excuse me, sir!” I called. The man stopped and turned around. We were face-to-face.

“You just took our picture back there,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. By now Kelsey and Kyle had caught up to me.

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“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” he said.

“Are you Rod Stewart?”

“Sometimes,” he said.

“No, really, I have to know,” I insisted. “Are you Rod Stewart?”

He must have seen something in my eyes because he said quietly, “Yes, I am.” My knees went weak. If only my dad could have seen this!

“Can I tell you a story?” I asked.

Rod nodded.

I told him that “Have I Told You Lately” was my father’s favorite song and that just an hour earlier I’d been wondering if Dad knew how much I missed him.

Rod gently put his hand on my arm. I rested my hand on top of his. “And now I’m meeting you,” I said. “It’s crazy. Your song’s title is even on my dad’s gravestone.”

Tears came to Rod’s eyes. “Can I give you a hug?” he asked. He pulled me in tightly. “Thank you for sharing that. You made my day.”

When we let go, Rod clasped his hands together and pointed them heavenward. Then he and his companion walked away.

Kelsey, Kyle and I looked at each other and sat down on a bench. We all felt stunned. Just at the moment when I was missing my dad so badly, the rock star who sang our song crosses my path? Really? You could never plan or even imagine something like that!

But Someone had. Someone who orchestrates unforgettable encounters and writes amazing moments into the stories of our lives. I looked up into the bright blue sky. There really is no one else above him.

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Watch as Karen discusses her book 15 Minutes and tells the story of her High Line encounter!

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