Karen Kingsbury, her daughter, Kelsey, and son-in-law, Kyle, took a stroll through High Line, an elevated park in New York City. They decided to capture the moment with a photo and asked a stranger to take it for them. As their photographer walked away, Kingsbury realized who he was – and she was in complete shock for a very emotional reason.
It was at Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California where Kingsbury first got bitten by the writing bug. One of her tutors rapidly identified her talent for the written word, and Kingsbury became a reporter for the school newspaper at her instructor’s behest. Karen never laid down her pen, and eventually graduated from Cal State University Northridge with a degree in journalism in 1986.
She started working for the Los Angeles Times newspaper covering a high school sports beat until her editors realized she had a knack for telling the city’s longer, more emotional stories. When she wrote about a murder and sold the piece to People magazine, it ended up in the hands of a literary agent who thought it’d make a great book.
From there, she ditched her job in journalism to focus on writing novels full-time. This proved an inspired decision – as an author she’s since topped the list of New York Times bestsellers. Indeed, more than 25 million copies of her much-lauded books are in print today.
It was on a trip to visit her publisher, Simon & Schuster, that Kingsbury found out she had become the nation’s number one inspirational novelist. Sales of her work had just topped the 20 million mark. She was understandably delighted by this piece of news.
And there was one person she wanted to call to celebrate all of her success – her dad. “I knew he’d be so proud,” Kingsbury told NBC’s Today show. But she couldn’t pick up the phone and dial his number – he had passed away long before that day, succumbing to cardiac complaints.
With her father on her mind, Kingsbury’s thoughts began to wander. She remembered a time her dad had phoned to share with her a new tune he especially liked. He’d said that “he would think about all of us whenever he heard it,” the author recalled.
The song was Rod Stewart’s “Have I Told You Lately?” Indeed, as the years passed it became a number close to Kingsbury’s heart precisely because of her father’s appreciation of it. The author even “had the lyrics engraved on the flower holder near his tombstone,” she revealed.
Strangely, Kingsbury said she and her family often encountered Stewart’s tune at very special moments in their lives. “We seemed to always hear the song at times when dad would’ve been so proud of us, wishing he were there,” she said.
However, on the day she received the good news about her place as the nation’s top inspirational novelist, Kingsbury said she knew she wouldn’t hear her special song. She was leaving her publisher’s office in the middle of New York City, after all.
But the lack of a musical memento didn’t stop Kingsbury from enjoying the rest of her day in the Big Apple. Her daughter, Kelsey, and her son-in-law, Kyle, were also in town. On a whim, the trio opted to head over to the High Line, a park in lower Manhattan.
The High Line used to be an elevated train track, built to protect pedestrians from dangerous street-level crossings that had killed hundreds at the turn of the 20th century. Once trucks became the city’s prevalent shipping method in the 1960s, though, the overhead railroad became defunct. That is, until the city turned it into an elevated park in the heart of the urban metropolis. The first stretch, three years in the making, opened in 2009.
As Kingsbury, Kelsey and Kyle traversed the unique inner-city green space, they decided to mark the moment with a picture. “[Kyle] tried to get a selfie,” the author recalled. Little did they know, a stranger was watching, and he’d step in to help them get the perfect shot.
“The man took the picture, looked at it and said, ‘Wow, that’s lovely,’” Kingsbury said. She thought little of it, until she noticed how wide her daughter’s eyes had grown. Kelsey finally said, “Mom, do you know who that is?”
It turned out, there was good reason for Kelsey’s shock – the man who had taken their impromptu family portrait was none other than Rod Stewart himself. Kingsbury called after him to confirm that he was, indeed, the man who sang her father’s favorite song.
Kingsbury asked him, “Are you Rod Stewart?” The photographer placed his hand on the writer’s arm and said, ‘Yes, yes I am.’” With that, Kingsbury “told him about [her] dad and [their] special song,” she said. And Stewart had an emotional reaction.
“Tears formed in Rod Stewart’s eyes. He lifted his hands upward then looked at me,” Kingsbury said. The singer then told her she “made [his] day” before the conversation ended. Then, she sat down with her family members to unpack their chance encounter.
“The three of us […] tried to imagine the odds of running into Rod Stewart on a day when I was missing my dad. Of course, there are no odds, and I don’t doubt for a second that dad had something to do with it,” Kingsbury recounted.
Kingsbury shared her story on the Today show in May, 2015, but it didn’t end there. After airing the author’s tale, the show’s team revealed that they had spoken to Stewart, who sent a message to Kingsbury through the broadcast.
“It must’ve been divine intervention that brought us together that afternoon, and I’m glad it did,” Stewart said in the clip. He then invited Kingsbury to see a show on his tour and made a final special promise to her. “I’ll dedicate a song to your late father, ‘Have I Told You Lately,’” Stewart said, thus ensuring the author would once again hear her special tune – this time, directly from the source.