“I’m NOT looking for a new job!” I declared as I tossed an un-revised copy of my resume on Gerry Robinson’s desk. “I’m quite happy where I am! The only reason I am here is because this IS where my church membership is, and you just happen to have an open staff position that fits what I can do.” Ten minutes later, I walked out of his office with a Manila envelope. Stuffed with music and audition requirements. And a date for an audition for Organist of Starling Avenue Baptist Church. It was March of 1991.
Fast forward three months to our students’ Recital Day. Gerry was there as parent of one of my students. As the reception began after the recital, Gerry took me aside (I honestly thought he was trying to find a way to gently tell me that the job had been given to one of the other two more-experienced ladies.). He had the very rare experience of leaving me absolutely speechless with the statement that the job was mine if I wanted it!
Thus began one of the most remarkable relationships of my life. We worked together for more than eighteen and a half years. He learned to read me like a book! And I usually knew how to read where he was going in choir rehearsals and worship. He just knew things…like the Sunday morning my grandmother died . Determined as I was to get through morning worship before telling anyone, he came to the choir loft before worship and asked point blank,”What in the world is going on with you today?” He knew when my back was beginning to bother me in rehearsals, and replaced the piano bench with a piano chair. Next was adding a back to the organ bench. He was a master of surprises, throwing a huge party for my 40th birthday, and orchestrating an incredible worship service honoring my ministry for my 50th birthday. He and Pastor David were the grease that set the wheels in motion for my full Ordination to the Ministry.
So many significant memories are bubbling to the surface! But one more really special one…Gerry introduced me to the joys of Carl Orff’s music education methods…which led to the most remarkable job in my career: Music Specialist at Leaksville-Spray Elementary.
So, why am I writing about all of this today? Ever the master of surprise, Gerry died very suddenly a year ago today. Although he and his wonderful wife, Betty, had moved on to a church in Richmond, and subsequently retired near the beach in South Carolina, he remained a significant friend and confidant. Losing him left a huge hole in the fabric of my life. I haven’t been able to write a suitable tribute for him. Doing so somehow meant his death was real, and for the longest time, I couldn’t face that reality. But now, besides the anniversary of his death, I am facing another milestone….my seventieth birthday is only a few weeks away. October 17 was our birthday! Gerry was older than I, but sharing a birthday with him was as fitting as it was fun.
Someone said recently that getting old is NOT for wimps! At first, I was certain the impetus for that statement was the inexorable decline of the aging human body.! But losing one’s parents and siblings and friends is far more difficult! To date, I have no easy answers, no pithy statements, no idea what to do with this dilemma. The only thing I can do is keep living. And be grateful for this day. Carpe deum.