Clayton started talking about riding on Bill Gaither's bus sometime last year when he heard it mentioned on a couple of the videos. He watched the videos pretty regularly, but it wasn't until the Shunt Debacle of 2010 that he literally would watch nothing else. During the entire time he was sick, he watched them over and over and over and over. During his headaches, the Homecoming friends got him through. And in his lucid moments he wanted to ride with Bill Gaither. It was a nurse at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital that first suggested Make-A-Wish. I took the idea and ran with it.
Clayton was very clear on his wish when the volunteers visited. He did a lot of his random stories that night, but he did say he wanted to ride on Bill Gaither's bus. In the months since, I've almost harassed the Wish Coodinator trying to find out if his wish would come true. As late as last week, she assured me the Gaithers would do "everything possible to make Clayton happy." And that they were "more excited to meet Clayton than he was to meet them." With that being said, I had grandeur blogger-mom thoughts of writing this post upon our return:
We have returned! What a trip of a lifetime! Clayton is still on cloud nine from his whirlwind day with the Homecoming friends. We arrived at the Convention Center several hours early so that he was able to meet and visit with many of them before they were due to get ready for the show. He met many of his favorite people to watch: The Hoppers, The Martins, Lynda Randle, The Isaacs, and of course Bill Gaither and The Gaither Vocal Band. They all seemed genuinely interested in getting to know Clayton and they couldn't believe how well he mimicked Bill Gaither's mannerisms.
Clayton was almost beside himself when Bill asked him if he wanted to go around the block on his bus. The driver was glad to take us for more than just one block and Clayton was all about looking out that front window and watching the driver do his thing. And as we pulled back into the Convention Center, Clayton was asking to "Do again?" in his normal fashion. "Maybe sometime," he answered himself.
We had front row seats to an awesome concert of praising the Lord. And just before The Gaither Vocal Band started into "Jesus on the Mainline," Bill Gaither announced to the audience that "this next one is for our very special guest, Clayton!"
But I can't write that post. It is so very far from the truth.
The truth is that upon my first contact with our Make-A-Wish escort in Ft. Worth, I asked her about the bus, and she was completely dumbfounded. First she had heard of it. She made calls and contacts, but ended up telling me that riding a tour bus was out of the question with most celebrities. No. DUH. That is why we've got a wish-granting organization helping us get our child's "wildest dream" to come true!
The truth is that our "handicap-accessible" seats were smack dab in the middle of the folding chairs on the floor and we weren't allowed to move any of them. We waited forever while an usher finally found us more appropriate seating for a wheelchair, but we got to look at the side of the stage as opposed to the front.
The truth is we were to meet Bill Gaither's manager at 2:40 to go backstage. TWENTY MINUTES before show time. Lucky us, when we did finally head back there, some "old friends" of Bill's followed us back there. And when I say lucky, I mean NOT.
The truth is that when Bill Gaither walked out, little Clayton was overwhelmed he was so excited. He started crying and holding his ear and clapping like Bill Gaither.
The truth is I had to ask Bill to bend down next to Clayton so he could actually be on his level instead of towering over him. He squatted for the picture but never really engaged Clayton in conversation.
Ben Isaacs came in and started visiting with us. Ben was followed by a very friendly Gene McDonald who was also happy to bend down and visit with Clayton. Bill mosied on over to the aforementioned "old friends" and our time was pretty much up with him.
The truth is we quizzed the manager on other artists and if we would get to see them. (Quote from his note at the Reveal Party "Bill Gaither and the Homecoming Friends are looking forward to meeting you . . .) She said they were all probably busy getting ready since the concert was about to start. (You think? Maybe that's why we should have been here earlier!)
The truth is our friends back home had been working hard to get word to the Gaither clan that Clayton just had to get on that bus. Our worship pastor traded tweets and emails with Wes Hampton and gave him the heads up on Clayton. We never let the Make-A-Wish escort know we might have the inside scoop, just decided to play it cool.
The truth is a whole lot of people were praying that Clayton would get his ride on the bus--and if not the ride, at least a step inside!
The truth? Brian and I are sick about the whole thing. Why was it like pulling teeth to get any answers from the Wish Coordinator? (Who I've since realized was really good at telling me what I wanted to hear). Why did we even agree to go with so many details up in the air and no real confirmation on the bus ride? Why didn't we just flat out demand those goofy "old friends" get out of our way with Bill? Why didn't we tell the manager to heck with the show, Clayton's here for the bus!!?
And WHY OH WHY did the Make-A-Wish office not go to bat for Clayton on this? I thought that's what the organization was all about! We're talking about a "dying wish" here! (Although Clayton is not technically "dying" he has a couple of life-threatening conditions that qualified him for the wish). Out of anything in the entire world he picks a ride on a tour bus and time with Bill Gaither. QUALITY time with Bill Gaither. I simply cannot fathom the Make-A-Wish organization failing to express the importance of this. And I simply cannot fathom being the Gaither organization and basically scheduling what amounted to a back-alley meeting for a couple of minutes! Is that what they would want if it was their dying child's wish???? I most decidely think not.
The truth is Brian and I are always willing to go above and beyond for Clayton. This entire wish event took months of "planning" and it wasn't near as personable and fulfilling as the Jason Crabb concert we went to a while back. And guess who took care of those details? Yep. You guessed it. Momma. Momma and Daddy who made sure Clayton had the best time possible . . . and it only took about three days to get those plans made!
Some will call me a complainer. Most will call me ungrateful. Think what you will, but I'm just a Momma. A Momma who fights fierce for her babies, and even extra fierce for this special little boy of mine.