My Dad, My Hero
Sometimes, when he's taking out the trash, Michael Tait thinks of his dad. And he'll start to cry.
"Dad always told me not to waste the trash bags," says Michael.
If the bag was full of paper, it could be used again, Nathel Tait would tell his son. If it was full of garbage, it should be thrown away, because it would start to smell.
Ah, words of wisdom from Dad.
Michael says his dad was a wealth of wise words—not only about trash bags, but about life and love and things of eternal value. Words that will forever cling to Michael's soul. Words he'd give anything to hear from his father once again.
Michael's dad died of cancer a little more than a year ago, and for Michael, the pain is still fresh.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever been through," says Michael, a member of supergroup dc Talk. "Nothing hits you like the loss of a parent. It rocks your planet, the very ground you stand on."
Ask Michael to describe his dad, and he's quick to say, "My hero."
"My dad was such a poet," says Michael. "He always had something worthwhile to say. I took in everything he ever said, because I had so much respect for him.
"I always tell my friends, 'My dad said this' and 'My dad said that.' It drives everybody crazy. But that's just the way I feel about my dad."
Of course, Michael's dad, who was a pastor, taught him about more than just trash bags.
"Let me tell you the two most important things I learned from my dad," says Michael. "Number one, love people. That's what he did. He cried with people, he laughed with people. Everybody was his friend. He could care less about your race, your nationality, your socio-economic status, whatever. All he cared about was you, your soul.
"Number two, live for God and don't get caught up in the things of this world, because they're just fleeting. The world will get the best of you if you let it, so we need to truly live for God.
"My dad preached those two things his whole life. And those two things have shaped who I am today. I love people, and I realize that life is short and God is real, and that I need to live for him."
Michael was visiting his parents in Washington, D.C., during the Christmas holidays in '97 when, two days after Christmas, his dad complained of stomach pains. Michael took him to the hospital, where doctors found the cancer.
A few weeks later, after Michael had returned to his Tennessee home, Mr. Tait started going downhill pretty quickly. Michael called home every day to get updates on his dad's condition.
When Mr. Tait slipped into a coma in February '98, Michael flew back to D.C. to be with his father.
"I spent the last night with him while he was still alive," Michael says. "The nurse had said that even though Dad was unconscious, he still might be able to hear me. I talked to him all night long, told him how much I loved him. The whole family got to talk to him. We said, 'Dad, it's OK. You can go. We'll take care of Mom. Things will be fine.'
"The next morning, I had to fly back to Nashville. I called that night, and I was talking to my mom on the phone when he died. She's sitting there with my dad, and he dies while I'm on the line. My mom started weeping over the phone, thanking him for 53 years of marriage as he was slipping away, then she just started wailing. Man, it was brutal."