A decade ago, when Kris Allen was singing his heart out to an audience of millions on American Idol, Season Eight, I was married to Brian. In our mid-thirties, we had three kids under the age of six and absolutely no time to watch television. We were never big fans of TV; we never had much time to sit still.

So, Adam Lambert was belting out “Play That Funky Music,” Kris Allen was singing “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and Brian and I were running businesses and carting our kids back and forth to soccer practice, school plays, and music lessons.

We moved from Maryland to Huntington Beach in 2009 too, and had to toddler-proof our new home for Max. Adjusting to our West Coast life, the five of us could be found buzzing around in Brian’s new Cessna Conquest, a plane he had purchased and retrofitted to save more time by flying higher and having to stop less frequently to refuel. Brian was a stickler for making every minute count, and he used that plane primarily to meet with business colleagues in Nevada at noon and make it home by evening to catch the kids for dinner, a sports match, or a performance.

He invested in that plane so he could invest time in us, his family.

A Deeper Meaning

After the crash in 2011, I heard—or rather, I really listened to, for the first time—the lyrics in Kris Allen’s version of the song “Live Like We’re Dying.”

I was on an airplane, returning from the East Coast after the first of Brian’s Celebration of Life services, to the West Coast, where a second service would be held. That flight home with Melanie, Brooke, and Max was long and surreal. But, when I heard the lyrics “if your plane fell out of the skies/who would you call with your last goodbyes,” my heart stopped: “What did he just say?”

I hit the PLAY button again, wondering, why is this song here for me? And then I knew I would play it at Brian’s Second Celebration of Life, in California.
In the eulogy I gave, I talked about how lucky I was that on our last phone call, hours before he took off on his fateful flight, Brian and I had exchanged the words “I love you.” I talked about the way Brian valued time and reminded people of the importance of the 86,400 seconds we are given each day.

Live and In-Person, A Decade Later

The moment “Live Like We’re Dying” turned from a Top 40 hit into a message that seemed written for me, I wanted to ask Kris Allen about it. A few months ago, when I was thinking of everyone I wanted to acknowledge in my forthcoming memoir Time to Fly, I Googled “Kris Allen tour dates.” The American Idol was coming to a venue near me! I bought tickets and VIP meet-and-greet passes.

Before the show, I handed Kris a pre-release copy of my book, marking the pages where he and “Live Like We’re Dying” are mentioned. I asked him if he knew what inspired the “plane falling out of the sky” line. “Please tell me that didn’t happen,” he said.
“It did,” I said. “But hearing your song consoled me so much, at the time.”

Kris told me that “Live Like We’re Dying” was written by members of an Irish band called The Script. I know nothing of the band, but I do know this: There is no script. We may have the best-laid intentions, plans, and schedules, but the way to master the fine and delicate art of living is to simply step up and onto whichever stage intrigues us most, and play—be, do, listen, and engage.

The Next Chapter

Kris Allen isn’t selling out large stadiums; he sang to an intimate crowd. He’s living the dream—his calling—of wooing crowds with music. And now in his thirties, he is a father and a husband. Next time he sings “Live Like We’re Dying,” he’ll know that the song impacted at least one listener when she needed it most, more than he ever could have imagined. I hardly seek the level of fame American Idol winners have earned, but I do hope the words I’ve written about losing one love of my life, find the ears and hearts that need them.