I have just returned from a “Celebration of Life” for a musician who was a major player in our church’s music department. I really didn’t know him. I just knew him through his Sunday and concert performances. We did not know one another beyond occasional “hellos” as we passed.
He was one of the first persons I remember seeing the first time I attended a service with this congregation. He was on the platform with his long hair flowing, his jeans, and a mustache and beard…or maybe it was a goatee…I don’t remember now. This was almost six years ago.
I saw him talking with some of the other musicians on the platform and some of the men and women in the gathering around him. I had arrived a little early and the service had not yet begun.
I suddenly felt like I had entered some kind of time warp, like I was back among the flower children of the 60s. There were sandals on the men, long hair, and tie died shirts. I wondered where the previous forty+ years had gone.
At first I felt uncomfortable. After all, this was a house of God. As a child, two of the first things I learned was to wear my “Sunday best” and to read a plaque above the door which said, “This is the House of God. Enter in silence.” That is what you did.You entered, you bowed your head in prayer, you responded at the appropriate time, you sang at the appropriate time, but to talk to a friend? NEVER! Not in God’s house. Yet here he was laughing and talking as he prepared for the service.
Everyone quieted down and the service began. All of a sudden I realized I was home again. As I looked around the congregation, I realized these “hippies” were not the only ones. There was a wide range of clothing from suits to jeans, T shirts to shirts and ties. The musician was just one of a rainbow of people in that congregation.
As a person who has since early childhood felt like the perennial outsider, I realized that the entire congregation was filled with people who probably were perennial outsiders themselves. But here, there was acceptance. Here there was safety to be ourselves. He certainly was the epitome of that idea.
There was camaraderie, there was fellowship, there was love. Sunday after Sunday he was there to sing songs about that love and friendship and building bridges. He would take rock and roll songs (my childhood minister would have had apoplexy at the thought) and help the congregation to see the connection between the music and the message. He was a good musician. He had several bands throughout the years, but I don’t think he was ever really much known outside Ft. Worth. But then again, I really didn’t know him.
His music reached people’s hearts. As I looked around the church I noticed that it was completely filled downstairs, and there was a good amount of people upstairs in the balcony as well. Music was not his whole life. He was also a teacher. I’m sure many of the people assembled were members of his faculty.
Actually, he was struck down at school. He was on the faculty of a special school that deals with behavior problems. There was a fight and he stepped in to break it up. Suddenly he fell, the victim of a brain aneurysm. When he was admitted to the hospital, it was discovered that he had four aneurysms altogether. They could have ruptured at any time but the extra emotion and physical exertion it took to break up the fight was all it took. His body endured a twelve hour operation but it was too much to last much longer. He was taken off life support a couple of days later.
He was a simple man, in my opinion. I don’t recall ever seeing him at church in anything other than jeans and a long sleeved shirt or on rock and roll Sunday, a tee shirt. He would sing his heart out with his songs.
The hospital where I volunteer takes in everyone including the homeless. Many of these patients also have long hair and various amounts of facial hair, not always trimmed. At first I was put off by them, kind of like my first reaction to the musician. Then one day it struck me that they could very well be like him. I tried to imagine him in one of the hospital beds. It was then that I was able to see the Christ Spirit in all of these men. It was the musician at church who first showed me the Christ Spirit within himself. I could see his self rather than just the shell of him. That was the musician’s gift to me. There are a lot of people who will miss him. I will be one of them. Namaste. Attic Annie