Thursday, March 10, 2011
This morning I'm heavy hearted because a man I love very much has gone to be with the Lord. I'm also rejoicing because I know where he is and I hear the music is fantastic. You see, Tom Myers was the Choir Director for my church growing up and was also the Choral Director at both the Jr. High and High Schools. He's the man who taught me music. I could always sing. I was born singing. But someone had to teach me how to make it beautiful. Someone had to teach me to read and understand music. Someone had to teach me how to make the harmony I always heard in my head work. Someone had to teach me to breathe from my diaphragm, not sing through my nose, warm up my voice, stand up straight,and blend. Someone had to teach me how to enunciate, make a pleasant tone, stay on pitch and all about the round vowels...and let's not talk about the dip-thongs. Someone had to teach me to be a leader. Someone had to give me a family bigger than my nuclear family. Tom Myers did those things. If you were a choir kid, you're family. It doesn't matter if you ever attended school or were even in the youth group at the same time, we're family. He was our musical Father and he called us his "kids." Now our musical Father has gone to be with our Heavenly Father and I believe he's heard, "Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter your rest."
I had the privilege of growing up in a small town full of godly mentors. I had many teachers who cared about me personally. I grew up in a church where generations didn't seem to matter. I was "raised" by Central Baptist Church as well as my parents. They gave us a godly foundation that can't be shaken. They had more musical talent than you could shake a stick at (still do) and during my time, the person who led all that talent was Tom Myers. He also loved all that talent. He delighted in it, I think it would be fair to say. In our schools, he gave us a musical legacy that is hard to beat. We had Sweepstakes choirs. ONLY Sweepstakes choirs. It wasn't optional. He knew the way to instill pride in the now and the future is to remind us of what came before us. Excellence. Nothing else was acceptable. We were trained for excellence. We also took trips every spring break and in the spring, we would put on a Broadway musical. This all required money and strength so we spent a lot of time fundraising and most of us learned to be very good at it. We had a high school choir full of athletes who may not have been the best singers but were ever bit as valuable as hard workers. No choir nerds in our choir. It takes a lot of work and brute strength to sell 40 pound boxes of fruit and build sets. The girls were never excused from hard labor. We were taught that we were every bit as capable and strong as those football players. I chunked a lot of boxes of apples in my day. We also had kids from our church choir in the Texas All-State Baptist Youth Choir every year and there was another trip. I loved our trips.
He hauled us all over the Eastern United States, Mexico and parts of the West, and to an immeasurable number of President's houses (my favorite is still Monticello) and that was just during my years. Those trips were amazing. We started every day with student led prayer and a devotional. The bus didn't roll until it was done. Even then, we were being taught to be godly leaders by example. We weren't given a devotional to read, we were just given the day it would be our turn and we had to do the work. We had the same bus driver all 4 of my years because he like driving us. Why? We were good kids. We didn't have a choice. Nothing but excellence was acceptable, remember. Hauling kids all over the country is not something that can even be done in today's educational climate. His family came with us no matter their age at the time but still, their family vacations were our family vacations. It never occurred to me as a child what it cost him and his family. Mrs. Myers loved us too and she never begrudged us this privilege. She packed up the kids and got on the bus and loved us like he did. I watched her and in her I found a godly example of a wife, mother and woman. He could not have found a better partner. She was truly his partner. I wonder if they ever got to have a family vacation?
Through our musicals, we were taught to be performers. Everyone was included. We auditioned for parts and sometimes you got to learn to be a gracious loser. Sore losers? Never saw one. Those musicals were another thing I looked forward to getting to be old enough to do. As it turns out, I can't act but I can sing a MEAN "who could be mistaken," behind a tombstone in Fiddler. Creative. People came from all around to see these productions because they were excellent. You see the theme.
Over the years,his "kids" have suffered a lot of loss. He attended every funeral he's been physically able to attend. Lately, that's where we've seen one another. The last time we spoke was right after Pam, Kathy and I sang a little Southern Gospel trio at Audrey's Mom's funeral. I broke many vocal and musical laws and I thought he was coming over to give me a critique, as usual. Instead, with a tear in his eye, he gave me a pat on the back and said "good job." He was speaking to all of us. I think there was much more than music wrapped up in it. In my life I've received many "good job's" but that''s the one that means the most because it took a lifetime to earn and it came from someone who meant the world to me.
There was a study done on two families, The Max Jukes family and the Johnathan Edwards family. Max Jukes believed in liberation from laws, no formal education and hated imposed responsibility. By all accounts he was a drunkard and lazy. In contrast, Johnathan Edwards was a man of faith, an evangelist. He was hard working, God-fearing and Bible believing. Edwards "was a godly minister who was credited with igniting The Great Awakening through his sermons. He served for a brief period just before his death as president of what is now known as Princeton University. He believed in leading by example. Of 1026 descendants of Max Juke, 300 were convicts, 27 were murderers, 190 were prostitutes and 509 were either alcoholics or drug addicts. It is estimated that the Jukes had cost the State of New York almost $1.4 million dollars to house, institutionalize and treat the family of deviants. By contrast, the 929 descendents of Jonathan Edwards included 13 college presidents, 86 college professors, 430 ministers, 314 war veterans, 75 authors, 100 lawyers, 30 judges, 66 physicians, and 80 holders of public office, including three U.S. Senators, seven congressmen, mayors of three large cities, governors of three states, a Vice-President of the United States, and a controller of the United States Treasury.
Those are some legacies! I thought I would count the legacy of Tom Myers and his "kids" but even now, one generation later, it's too great to count. The musicians, choral directors, educators, and ministers alone is a staggering number while people who have failed at life are very few. That's a legacy. I know he's proud of every one of us. He wasn't always sunshiny. There were times he was out and out grumpy. In the High School, everyone didn't like him. He didn't care. He wasn't there to be liked. He was there to teach us the music and life. I believe he succeeded. Did I mention I loved this man?
I may have to miss his funeral. If I do, it's because we are taking our family to Washington DC, a place where Mr. Myers took me twice and BECAUSE he took me there twice I developed a love for those historic and patriotic places. They don't have a Mr. Myers so it's our privilege to pass along that love to my kids. I think he would approve. I know he would.
So to Mr. Myers, we bid adieu, for now. And to Jeanette, Nanette, Tommy, Corby and Shannon, I say, "thank you for the music." He couldn't have done any of it without you. I love you guys too. We all do and we share in your grief and your loss. Thank you for allowing us to do so. Thank you for sharing your lives and allowing him to be that musical Father for us. I promise you,it hasn't been wasted.