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A Christmas spent in heaven

BISMARCK — Coping with the death of a loved one is never easy. In 2005 Bismarck Mayor Dennis Mayberry lost his father-in-law. It was a crushing blow to the Mayberry family. However, through the family’s faith in God and their love of music, they have found a way to transform their heartache into a message others can find comfort in.

“This started when we were at the funeral home for my father-in-law,” Mayberry said. “At the funeral home my mother-in-law was given a plaque that had a poem on it.”

Mayberry said the poem talked about his father-in-law spending Christmas with Jesus that year.

“Eight months later I asked to see the plaque again,” Mayberry said. “I couldn’t get that poem out of my mind.”

The poem was also on the mind of Mayberry’s son Dennis Mayberry Jr.

“One day I sat down and went at it,” the son said. “I started writing a song about this poem. Aside from the crying, it took me maybe an hour and a half to write this entire song. The words just came easily to me. I don’t know why that is. I can’t really explain it other than this was very personal for me. I believe the words were a gift from God.”

Mayberry Jr. said writing the song was his way of finding peace with his grandfather’s death.

“Dennis brought me this song and said ‘Dad I wrote this can you work it out and put it together’,” Mayberry Sr. said. “I told him I definitely could do that”

Mayberry Sr. and his daughter, Misty Lincoln, worked out the lyrics and put the song together. The Mayberrys are part of a local gospel group called Final Phaze. The band members include Mayberry Sr., Mayberry Jr., Lincoln, Troy Lincoln, Warren Russel, Lanette Gallaher, Debbie Lincoln, Jodie Wilson and Dennis Boyd. With the completed song in hand, it was time for Final Phaze to record it.

“We went into the recording studio and recorded it,” Mayberry Sr. said. “We took a copy of it to my mother-in-law so she could hear it. She asked us if the words from the poem on the plaque were copyrighted. I didn’t even think about that. After some checking I discovered that they were copyrighted.”

Mayberry Sr. said he contacted the author’s wife about using the verse of the poem in the song.

“We offered to pay her for the use of the verse, but she was against it,” he said. “I explained the circumstances of the song to her and she advised me that we needed to change the words.”

The verse from the poem was the centerpiece of the song. Changing it would prove to be a difficult challenge for the family.

“We felt so strongly about this song. Misty was very discouraged, but I told her I think I got it,” Mayberry Sr. said. “She sat down with me and the chorus just came to us. Dad helped us in heaven do this. It just came to us…It was truly a miracle.”

The recording studio still had the original song on the master so Final Phaze went back into the recording studio and recorded the new chorus.

“I think this song is one of the ways God intends to launch us (Final Phaze) out there,” said Troy Lincoln. “They rewrote this song, went back into the recording studio and had it recorded within a couple of days. That doesn’t usually happen like that.”

Since the song was completed in 2006, Mayberry Sr. has insisted on keeping it a single and not promoting it as part of any album.

“I didn’t feel right making money off this song,” he said. “I wanted to focus on God and the way that he wanted us to do this. We don’t put a price on Jesus. If we had to sell ourselves we wouldn’t be doing what is right.”

In 2008 The Music Review contacted Mayberry Sr. and requested a copy of the song, which is called “Christmas In Heaven,” to distribute to radio stations.

“I sent them a copy of the song and didn’t expect to hear anything else about it,” Mayberry Sr. said. “I periodically get newsletters from this agency that shows various song charts and rankings.”

A couple of months later Mayberry Sr. got another one of those newsletters. As he glanced at it, he could hardly believe his eyes.

Based on 200 Radio Station Playlists, “Christmas In Heaven” ranked No. 8 on “The Top 25 Independent Christmas Songs 2008” list. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” by Miley Cyrus is No. 2, “Last Christmas” by Taylor Swift is No. 3 and “Joyful King” by the Jonas Brothers is No. 5 on the list.

“You look at the other names on this list and that’s what makes this special,” Mayberry Sr. said. “When you see names like Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and the Jonas Brothers…These are big names in the music industry. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this type of exposure.”

Final Phaze performs regularly at churches and other public events. Lincoln said whenever the song is performed the audience always connects with it. He said people can relate to the message of the song.

“The message of the song is huge,” he said. “There is another side of life. Death is not saying good-bye forever. People take this song personally and take it into their hearts.”

Final Phaze is scheduled to perform at Church in the Park at Country Days and will perform twice at Six Flags this summer.

Chris Cline is a reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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