And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance…
So it was February 13, 1998 and my sister Carla had come from Houston to stay with Todd and I the week before her 25th birthday. We had surprised her with tickets to see her favorite entertainer, Garth Brooks. I too really enjoyed his music although, Todd a mostly classic rock fan enjoyed some country but was not particularly a Garth fan. Nonetheless we bought floors seats which were fairly expensive but we knew we could not put a price tag on Carla getting to see her favorite artist! You see Carla had struggled most of her life with various health issues as a result of having Marfan Syndrome which is a connective tissue disorder and caused her bones and muscles to be thinner and weaker than most healthy people. Up to this point she had gone through 3 open heart surgeries including a heart transplant and most of the other parts of her body had been operated on as well. So she was definitely in need of a really great birthday present! Unfortunately we could never plan on when Carla’s health would take a turn for the worse and as God would have it she started running fever the day after she arrived and then ended up in the hospital with Pneumonia. She was very sick that whole week leading up to the Friday night concert but we prayed and never lost hope that she would get better and get out of the hospital for the concert she had been waiting months to attend. I remember asking every one I knew to pray and we just encouraged Carla to focus on getting better so she could spend her birthday not in the hospital as she had done many years but celebrating at the Garth concert!!
So on that Friday morning of her birthday I arrived at the hospital hoping and praying she had drastically improved but as soon as I arrived I realized she was still very sick. She seemed in great spirits though and we just tried to be hopeful and continued to pray. Then shortly after lunch with the concert just hours away her doctor walked in with the biggest birthday balloon I have ever seen and said, “Happy Birthday Carla! I am going to let you out to go to the concert!” We screamed and thanked him and praised God for answering our prayers! Carla was still sick but not running fever on and a mega dose of antibiotics so with a release from the doctor although very weak we took her out and drove to Ft. Worth to see Garth. Oh and I forgot to mention that we had a friend in Colorado who knew someone at Garth’s management company so we had been working for weeks to try and get her back stage to meet him BUT since she was still in the hospital the day of the concert her back stage pass had been released that morning to someone else. She was disappointed but still so grateful to be out of the hospital and going to see Garth! Todd was determined though to work his magic which in case I haven’t shared before the man had skills, he could talk his way in and out of just about anything, so he was sure he could still get here back. I on the other hand was doubtful!
So we get the the arena and our seats were definitely on the floor but they were way in the back on these risers and we could not see the stage well but still we were beyond excited to just be at the concert. Todd got us situated in our seats and my Mom, Carla’s best friend Angela and my mother in law were all there as well then he disappeared to make magic happen. I think he went to the back stage area not once or twice but three times before finally returning and saying, “I think it is going to happen!” Carla and I were getting giddy and butterflies were beginning to form in our stomachs as we thought about meeting Garth. This was a man who had just been voted Entertainer of the Year and as I watched my sister get excited and nervous about the thought I was beside myself with joy! Then these two guys with badges came over to where we were sitting and asked for Carla Rosales. She jumped up as if she had just won the million dollar lottery and said, “I am Carla Rosales!” The men said, “come with us please.” Todd said, “well I need to go too as I have to carry her” He had carried Carla on his back to our seats as she had been too weak to walk. I jumped up and said, “I need to come also to take pictures.” They said, “okay” and off the three of us went. I am actually getting nervous now just thinking about that moment. We walked to the back stage area with his manager Mick and walked passed Trisha Yearwood and her band and she was his opening act. Then there was a door way with stairs going down and we watched a young girl smiling from ear to ear carrying a picture of Garth come out and Carla asked Todd to put her down and I looked in the door and said, “Carla I see him!” She said, “Oh my gosh I think I’m gonna be sick.” I said, “oh no don’t get sick your okay!” We walked down the steps and there Garth was all by himself and he took off his hat, shook our hands, then gave Carla a hug and said, “so nice to meet you!” All Carla could say was, “you smell so good!” It was too cute! She was beaming!!
He told us, “to sit down and take a load off” as he pointed to the couch. I remember thinking, “OH MY GOSH, it’s GARTH BROOKS!! Carla just stared at him and said, “It’s you, I can’t believe it’s really you!” Todd began sharing how Carla was in the hospital but she told her doctors she had to get out and go to the concert. He also mentioned that it was her birthday. At this point Garth’s manager came back in and Garth said, “Mick can you get Carla a birthday bag?” Mick left a returned with a large bag filled with two concerts shirts, 2 hats, 2 key chains and 2 posters and a program. Garth signed most of it and even got a silver pen so his signature would show up on her black concert shirt. It was just about time for him to go and perform and he made us feel like he had all the time in the world to talk with us. Carla shared that she so enjoyed his music and that she felt like she could relate to a lot of the songs and he humbly said, “thank you!” I think Carla and I mostly just stared with our mouths hanging open as we were definitely having a very surreal moment but of course Todd who was not star struck at all just kept making jokes and was his usual funny self. He actually offered the hand made vest he was wearing to Garth. He said, “Come on Garth you know you want to wear this. It will look really good!” Garth graciously declined. As we spent about 15 to 20 minutes which really felt like a lifetime Todd told Garth that Carla had gone through 3 open heart surgeries and even had a heart transplant. Garth replied, “wow that is pretty incredible!” Carla then mentioned that her favorite Garth song was The Dance. She said, “I have told my family and friends that is the song I want played at my funeral.” He said, “Oh your gonna live another 80 years!” As we said our goodbyes he went to shake my hand and I said, “can I have a hug?” I mean it’s not every day you get to meet a star like that so why not? He gave us all a hug and told us how great it was to meet us and then he asked where we were sitting and realized Carla would have to stand up the whole time so he upgraded our seats which ended up being the best seats in the place!
We walked down the hallway to our new seats and we were all beaming! Todd and I had walked into the arena really there supporting Carla but after that meeting we felt as though it was our birthday and we had just had a brush with an amazing, humble, kind, and truly the most down to earth person we had ever met. Although he was a the height of his career he made time for my sister who he had never met and had nothing to gain by meeting her. We had a new love and respect for Garth Brooks and he became one of our favorites after that!
I know this story is long but hang with me just a few more minutes. So the concert starts and it’s as though Carla had been shot with energy and adrenaline and she was on cloud 9. She stood almost the whole concert belting out every song and during one of his songs in the middle of the chorus he looks straight at her and says, “Happy Birthday!” I began to cry! The women in the seat next to Carla said, “you know him?” Carla simply smile and said, “Yeah.” The concert was amazing it lasted two and a half hours, he danced, jumped around and sang his heart out and after he sang all his hits we were thinking he had to be almost done. SO after he finished a song and it was quiet he began strumming on his guitar and said, “as I travel around I get to meet some pretty cool people and today I met a really special girl, she has had a lot of health challenges and was literally in the hospital today but she told her doctors, I have to get the heck out of here I’m going to see Garth!” “She told me her favorite Garth song is my favorite song, The Dance so I’d like to dedicate this song to her.” At this point Carla is radiating JOY from ear to ear and tears are just streaming down my face, I couldn’t believe how special this night was! He sang the most beautiful version of The Dance I have ever heard! The night ended with Mick his road manager putting Garth’s guitar pic in her hand and saying, “Happy Birthday!” We left the concert that night and Carla’s ultimate dream on earth had come true and we just thanked God for such an incredible gift! Unfortunately the high of the night would not last as Carla relapsed and returned back to Houston on Sunday and then went back into the hospital. However, when life got hard we would play Garth’s music and relive that night with Carla over and over again and no amount of pain and sickness could take away that gift!
My precious sister and best friend had such an incredible faith and love for Jesus Christ and her family. She was admitted into the hospital on July 15th then passed away into the presence of her Savior on October 15, 2001 at the age of 28. Per her wishes we played The Dance at her funeral and there was not a dry eye in the room. So in honor of Carla’s homecoming yesterday marking 11 years I thought it was only fitting to share this incredible story.
Carla taught me how to live a life of faith under pressure and great trial. She showed me how to persevere and to trust God when things don’t make sense and seem unfair. I know she is now in perfect peace and is doing all the things her physical body was unable to do here on earth. I also believe she is hanging with Todd. They are praising our Lord together and having a party even bigger than her greatest night on earth… the night we met Garth. I am thankful we didn’t miss the pain and truly experienced the most beautiful DANCE!
Live For More,