There are many artists I have loved and been influenced by over the years, but none so much as Amy Grant. Her 1991 hit album Heart In Motion was the first real cassette tape I ever owned. And her music continues to hold all the nostalgia and power of a first love.

It was through Amy’s music that I came to see the value and beauty of songwriting, and though it was many years before I was able to act on that dream, it was her music that ultimately inspired me to become a songwriter myself.

This past week I had the opportunity to fly to the US to meet Amy and see her perform for the first time.

I was to go on an Alaskan cruise where Amy, and a handful of other artists she’d invited, would perform several times, and there would be a meet and greet for photos and brief conversation.

My expectation of the week was simply that. I would meet Amy briefly, and enjoy seeing her perform live. Well, what can I say? This week was ready and waiting to surprise me.

On Day 2 I met Amy. I explained how she’d influenced me to become a songwriter and when she expressed genuine interest in hearing my music I gave her a copy of my latest album.

I felt extremely vulnerable, but any fears I had of overstepping a boundary were quickly allayed when she mentioned me in concert, and said how much she was looking forward to listening to my CD on her drive home.

I felt a wonderful sense of having come full circle. This stranger from the other side of the globe had connected with me through her songs. And now I would do the same.

The last day of the cruise came around. I ordered a drink and was reflecting on the beauty and inspiration I had gained, when a stranger approached me and introduced himself. His name was Andrew, and he wanted to know if I would be his plus one for dinner with Amy that night.

I was floored. But at the same time an extraordinary ending seemed almost inevitable after such an extraordinary week. Andrew had competed for dinner with Amy and won against hundreds. And I, of all the hundreds, was to join him.

Whether by divine providence or the kindness of strangers – or maybe the two are one and the same – I found myself, at Amy’s request, grabbing my ukulele after dinner, and singing a crazy song of mine called “A Duck Named Sybil” through croaky voice for my idol.

It may seem as odd choice of song, but unfortunately it is one of the few of mine that I can actually play on the ukulele!

But perhaps it was not the most inappropriate choice after all. I was Sybil – the duck with clipped wings. But despite limitations and setbacks I had ploughed ahead with my dreams, and here I was, back at the beginning, singing for the woman who had first ignited that spark.

After singing, she asked me to repeat the lines of the chorus:

Because the closest thing to flying

Is thinking you are flying

It isn’t really lying

Just spread your wings and close your eyes

‘Cause there’s no point wasting all your precious time

Asking “why, why, why?”

Just close your eyes

You’ll think you can fly.

Thank you, Amy, for giving me wings.