Lance Carr sat in his wheelchair, tears that he couldn’t brush away running freely down cheeks glowing with pride as Broadway star Norm Lewis belted out an inspiring song about Carr’s hero.
Next to Carr, the subject of the song — Lance Carr’s father — brushed away his own tears as Lewis’ powerful voice filled the TODAY studio in New York.
It’s often said at such times that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and usually that’s just a figure of speech. But not on Thursday. Not on the day that Carr became the first of eight people whose stories will be presented over the next two months as part of the “Everybody Has a Story” series conceived by TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. Not when Lewis sang “He’s My Hero,” the song Gifford and her collaborator David Friedman wrote especially for Lance and his dad.
“He’s my hero, though the world will never see all the courage that he has and gives to me,” Lewis sang. “He’s my hero.”
A quiet hero
Before Lewis, who is starring on Broadway in “The Little Mermaid,” launched into the song, Lance had said that he hoped it would not be a sad one. After Lewis finished, he glowed. “I loved it,” he said. “It’s about Dad.”
When their son was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy at the age of 13 months, Lance Carr’s parents, Larry and Thelma Carr, were told he would die by the age of 3. He’s 38 now and going strong, but the disease has robbed him of all movement except for his head and face and his thumbs. He lives with his parents in Fort Morgan, Colo., and his father, Larry, bathes him, dresses him, feeds him, scratches his itches and cares for him in every way, without complaint.
Lance wanted the world to know of his dad’s quiet heroism. When he heard that Gifford and Kotb were soliciting personal stories for their series, he wrote them about his father.
“My name is Lance Carr and I’m 38 years old. I suffer from pain every single day,” he began. “I’ve never held a loved one in my arms. That’s tough.”
Then he explained what his father has meant to him. “In direct defiance of physics, Mother Nature, and the very idea of the aging process itself, Dad lifts me in his strong arms (arms that give more comfort and reassurance then even the embrace of an Angel would be able to provide) to bathe me, to care for me,” Carr wrote.
“A few years ago he left the hospital against doctor recommendation when suffering from the extreme pain of kidney stones, a pain many men would verify no regular human being could ignore ... why? So he could take care of his son,” Carr continued. “Our entire lives together are peppered with such stories of how love for and from his family allows him to endure and persevere.”
He concluded by saying, “In a world where we look for role models and heroes in politicians, athletes or maybe something as silly as an entertainer, the daily demonstrations of heroism acted out by my Pops go unnoticed. If those who read this want to be heroic and change this world into a better place, they need do nothing more than emulate my dearest old Dad.”
Larry Carr watched a tape of his son reading the letter. “I’m very grateful that he thinks that much of me, and I love him so much,” Larry said.
He denied that what he does is anything special. “It’s not that I’m always there for him. He’s always there for me. It’s just a wonderful feeling to have someone who is so close — I think we finish each other’s sentences for each other.”
The idea for the inspirational series came from a song Gifford wrote with Friedman called “Everybody Has a Story.” The song was originally composed for the movie “Bella,” but Gifford realized that the song’s message was true: Everybody does have a story.
She and Kotb decided to get those stories. “We decided, how awesome it would be if Americans sent in their stories, and then David and I would write the song of their story and bring them here to New York and give them an opportunity to let the world know their story,” Gifford explained.