Nineteen years ago today, on July 17, 2004, Tim McGraw began his seven-week run at the top of the charts with his single "Live Like You Were Dying." The song is the title track of McGraw's eighth studio album.

Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman wrote "Live Like You Were Dying," which is about a man who finds out that his father is battling a terminal illness. With lines such as, "And all the sudden, goin' fishing / Wasn't such an imposition / And I went three times that year I lost my dad / Well, I finally read the good book / And I took a good, long, hard look at what I'd do / If I could do it all again," the tune was especially meaningful to McGraw, who recorded "Live Like You Were Dying" in the same month that his father, Tug McGraw, passed away from cancer.

Tim McGraw Live Like You Were Dying single cover

"It's one of those times where you felt like you just happened to be lucky to be able to sing that song," McGraw tells CBS News. "And, you know, we always like to say, sometimes God walks through the room when a song works. That was just one of those special moments that it just sort of elevated everybody."

The songwriters say they knew right away that they had written something special, but they never imagined how much the tune would resonate with others.

"Craig and I had not written together in a while," Nichols recalls to Parade of the "Live Like You Were Dying" writing session. "That day, I was just telling him a story that I’d heard the day before about a friend of ours who’d had this health scare, and for a few days, he really thought he was dying. It was just some kind of a screw-up in a lab, but as I was telling Craig this story, it reminded him of a story he’d heard on NPR about a woman who’d been diagnosed with cancer, and she said before she died, she wanted to go mountain climbing in the Rockies.

"It’s just the coolest thing to be a part of, and it’s that thing where you 'must be present to win,'" he adds. "You just show up, and you just never know. I’d been writing songs 18 years when that came down. To me, that’s the beauty of it.”

"Live Like You Were Dying" won every major award after it was released, including ACM and CMA trophies for Single of the Year and Song of the Year, as well as two Grammy Awards.

This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.

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