In a surprising turn, I’ve been short on words this week. Honestly, I still am. I’ve felt so many emotions over the past week that I wish I could properly articulate, but I’m sure I can’t; at least not adequately.
I feel like a lost a brother last Friday. He passed away in such an unexpected and tragic way that even now it is hard to accept.
We had band practice last Wednesday night and Paul, my sister, Jan (pitching in on the clavinova) and I were doing our best to fill in for our normal group; most of whom were away enjoying spring break. It was a little rough, to be honest. I mean, we didn’t really hit any song the way it was meant to go but oh my goodness, did we have fun. Paul was his typically goofy self but I also watched him coach Jan through how we play. He used his hands, mostly. But, he also used rocker guy words that none of us understood. He gently directed her and told her it was completely okay that she wasn’t playing like his buddy Jenn would. It was incredibly precious.
When we walked out, he teased me. “Bye girl-who-wears-her-sunglasses-in-the-dark!” I turned to show and explain to him that the sun was still sort of out (at 7:30 pm). He sarcastically replied that given the sun was behind me and I would be driving away from it that I might not need my glasses (which was funny because dude always wears sunglasses). I said, “Shut up!” And that was that (as I drove off with my doggone sunglasses on).
Not even two days later, he was gone. Gone far too soon as a result of a fire that would claim not only his life, but his entire home in the very early hours of Friday, April 5.
The part that’s really tough to articulate is the complete highs and lows of this past week. Almost immediately Friday, our church began collecting donations for the Smit family. Within a day, the family had enough clothes to address their immediate needs. People from my office brought clothes and cards and gift cards and all I could think about was the fact that they don’t know this family. Like, at all. Some of the staff who contributed barely know me, for pete’s sake. I was so touched by their generosity.
On Sunday, I was blessed to see Amy (Paul’s wife) and three of their four children. Again, my heart was overwhelmed as I witnessed their resilience and strength in the midst of complete tragedy. I can honestly say I believe this family is destined for amazing things.
But just like it always does, the weekend turned into the week and as time has progressed, I’ve just been hurting more. I don’t think I realized how important my church band family is to me. I mean, I love them and I hope each of them know it and we’ve all been there for each other through some awful circumstances. However, I guess I was taking it for granted because that’s just who we are. I couldn’t have anticipated the loss of any one of them, and certainly wasn’t ready to lose Paul. He played a role in our group that is irreplaceable.
Last night, I was overcome again as I witnessed a portion of the 1,300 people that streamed through our church yesterday to express their sympathies to Paul’s family. And today, when (I’m guessing) 350 people gathered for his memorial service. There were boys in football jerseys standing in solidarity for Paul’s sons. It was the perfect illustration of our community. We know each other. We care for one another. And I pray, as a community, we continue to rally around Amy and those four beautiful kids she has (and a soon-to-be grandbaby!). But, I know we will. It’s just what we do.
I was honored to be a part of Paul’s service today. Our band joined up with some of his fellow musicians and we played songs that Paul loved. (We even had designated seating that we saved with papers that read, “Reserved for Paul’s groupies”.) The service included the likes of Sweet Home Alabama, the theme from SpongeBob Squarepants and Sweet Child of Mine. But, we also played some of our band’s songs. As we closed the service today, we sang How Great is Our God (by Chris Tomlin). I’m really thankful it was the last song as it’s been our go-to for a long, long time. Paul literally rocked that song. He always belted on that song and we would sing the last chorus a capella. But today, we ended the song and counted that last part so Amy could hear Paul. My sister said she could hear him and I could, too. Again, I was completely overcome with emotion. I loved his voice; I loved his heart for music and that he wanted to share it. I also love that despite (and because of) his imperfections he was a witness for Christ. Paul loved the Lord and today, he was smiling. And, I know for a fact that he was singing … loudly.
“And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore”
– 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), Matt Redman