Coca-Cola is the largest brand in the world and it is supporting my New York Times bestseller, Walk To Beautiful. This is the first time in the history of publishing that a book title has been promoted by a major consumer packaged goods company.
Hopefully you’ve seen the Coca-Cola display with my book on top of it in your favorite grocery store. And I sincerely hope you will purchase a six-pack of bottled Coca-Cola and my book Walk To Beautiful that recently reached the New York Times list for the third time within one year!
In 1989, seventy-five-year-old Bea Costner befriended me with an ice cold Coca-Cola. I was sixteen years old and homeless. I was Bea’s lawn-boy and every week she’d give me a Coke when I cut her grass. Toward the end of the summer, she asked me if I’d be interested in moving into her and her husband Russell’s home. This changed my life forever. I was allowed to go back to high-school, go to college, and pursue my dream of writing and performing music—and it all started with a Coca-Cola.
Every time I open my refrigerator and reach into the top drawer and remove that red and white glass bottle of Coca-Cola it takes me back to a time when a 75-year-old woman named Bea handed me an ice cold Coca-Cola over the fence every week when I cut her grass.
It was 1989, the same year the Berlin wall fell. I was 16 years old and homeless. My walls were up to say the least. I didn’t trust anyone. I just wanted to work, earn money and buy food. I wasn’t about to let my guard down and wouldn’t get close to anyone.
Week after week Bea handed me an ice cold Coca-Cola over the fence and we would talk. Or I should say, she would talk. She’d talk about simple things like the weather or her wood-working business or the job I was doing. Little by little those walls around me began to crumble.[Top]
In the early part of my career, when “Stay Gone” was a big hit on country radio, an older man and woman often came to my shows and always made a point to say hello, take a few photos, and leave a gift for me. There was nothing unusual about that; fans still do that today.
One evening after a show, at the meet-and-greet table, the woman asked, “Where’s your sister?”
She’d heard me talking about my sister during my show as the person who inspired the song, “Stay Gone.” A red flag went up immediately. Why is this stranger asking about my sister? I wondered.
“Ahh, I’m sure she’s around here somewhere,” I said and then quickly moved toward the next person in line.
“My husband and I would like to meet her,” the lady said.
Huh? Now, I was definitely looking around for the closest exit door to get away from this weird couple who was pursuing my sister.
I didn’t respond. I just looked at them the way you look at someone who gets in your personal space and you want them to get OUT!
Over the next few months, I saw this couple at several other shows in the area close to my hometown. After one of the shows, my sister nodded her head and asked, “Who are those two people?”[Top]
When Russell Costner, an American Army soldier, took that bullet in the back and fell forward on German soil, the first person he thought about was Bea … her beautiful eyes that smiled when she smiled … the sound of her saying his name. She was the love of his life. The thought of her heart breaking was more than he could stand. There’s no doubt those thoughts are what kept him alive.
Russell wrote letters as often as he could from the battlefield and hospital. He mailed them to Bea in Bessemer City, North Carolina. He asked her to tell the family he said hello. “I cannot write to them all,” he explained in one of his letters. It was Bea he wanted to share his life with the most. And he did—for more than 60 years.
“Hello Beatrice, just a few lines to let you hear from me. I am okay and hope you and the babies are the same. Well honey, I am somewhere in Belgium. It is a nice place, but not as pretty as Paris, France…