I’m sitting in my office, relaxing as the day draws to an end, listening to Willie Nelson sing Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” Rarely does a day pass without music filling my office. Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Yo-Yo Ma, Beethoven, Mozart, and yes, Carolyn Arends have been popular with me over the past year or so. As I listen to Willie, my mind is drawn to Tom, for he, too, loved music.

Tom’s dad was the son of an Arkansas country fiddler.” I can picture Tom’s grandpa fiddling away and dancing a jig. Tom’s grandad’s love for music was passed on to his dad, who always desired a house full of music.” Tom was blessed to grow up in a home pulsating with music of all kinds – classic, country, hymns and popular songs.” 

Tom’s older brother Tal was an especially gifted musician and played a variety of instruments. Tal was an exceptional bassoonist, good enough,” Tom writes, to get an invitation to serve as bassoonist in the Oklahoma City Symphony Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Victor Alessandro. Now in his eighties, Tal still has a huge repertoire of sing-along songs, musical comedy, country and folk songs, and entertainment gigs for Valentine’s Day dinners, family reunions, Rotary Clubs, and church meetings, available anytime for any occasion, always funny and ready at the drop of a hat.” 

I recently had the chance to see and hear Tal perform. It was the evening of Tom’s funeral. It had been a poignant, sad, sweet day. First, there was a morning burial service for family and friends. I helped to carry Tom’s casket down a hillside to the grave site. He would rest next to his beloved Edrita, who had preceded him in death by nine years. Now their bodies would rest side by side, waiting the promised resurrection. 

That afternoon we gathered for a larger memorial service. We sat and remembered Tom’s life, occasionally laughing and crying as we recalled our life together. By the time the service ended we were tired and hungry. In an hour or so we assembled at Tom’s house for a meal and in many ways a celebration. I hadn’t been at the house since Tom had died and I wondered how I would respond to be once again in our old stomping ground. I opened the front door, walked down the familiar book-lined hallway past Tom’s bedroom, and into the kitchen. 

And then I heard it, the sound of music. Lively, happy notes were rippling off Tom’s piano as Tal played away in the living room. I walked in, smiled at the folks gathered around the piano, sat down, and began tapping my feet, for Tal was playing bright, sparkling music, music to raise one’s spirit, music to tap to, to dance to, to smile to, to celebrate to, to sing to. Roberta Ahmanson was standing next to Tal and yes, I do believe she was dancing a jig, a jig to Tom’s life. I think he would have been pleased. 

Just like his love for baseball, Tom believed his love for music helped him to think clearly and well about God. It was through music that I first learned to reason. The reasoning process in music occurs through rhythm, melody, chords, progressions, transitions and grace notes. From a young age I grasped intuitively that I could apply musical modes of mental organization to anything else I studied.” 

I think Tom is right, though I admit I’ve never heard of grace notes.” Can an image-bearer’s life be one long, sweet note of grace? Tap away, Tal. Tap away, Tom.