One of the parts of my job I hate is saying goodbye to a singer. Over the last few years, the frequency of those farewells has increased in direct proportion to the average age of the membership. Today, I had to do it again.
Most of you didn't know Gene Tauriainen. If you did, you were truly blessed. He joined the BeckRidge Chorale about five years ago. He sang in our Tenor section. Michael, one of our bass singers encouraged him to join.
In September, prior to our first rehearsal of the new season, Gene called me to give me an update on his health. I assured him, we would find a way to work around any problems. When I walked into the first rehearsal, there was Gene sitting in his usual spot, in the back row. I walked up and greeted him. I encouraged him to move down to the front row to help ease some of the concerns he had shared. Gene was worried that if he had to use his portable oxygen, it would be disturbing to other singers. I tried to alleviate his fears but to no avail. He didn't want to distract anyone. I dropped the subject knowing Sharon, his back row partner, would be there to provide any help he would need.
The fall season didn't go as planned. Gene had talked with me a couple of times about how things were progressing - always positive but mindful that things were not getting better. Unfortunately, Gene wasn't able to sing our Christmas concert. He was hoping to make one of the performances but time wasn't on his side. On Christmas Eve, Gene left this world to join the Eternal Choir.
As the director of a volunteer choir, you often question if what you do is worthwhile. Are we creating beauty? Are we serving the vision of the composer, arranger and lyricist? Are we allowing ourselves to become emotionally vulnerable? Enough to truly touch hearts and minds? If we were gone, would we be missed? Am I meeting the needs of the performers and the audience?
Today, John and I shared in the celebration of Gene's life. Three of his grandchildren spoke of their love and admiration of this truly gentle man. I cried with them and sang with them. His family imparted how much he loved singing and the BeckRidge Chorale. Most importantly, they shared how he loved - unconditionally.
In his final days, Gene devoted some of his remaining strength to his funeral service. He determined what scriptures should be shared and the hymns we would sing. When I viewed the casket, Gene was wearing his BeckRidge tuxedo along with our pin showing two clasped hands and the words: Touching hearts, one song at a time.
Seventy-seven minutes after I had received word that Gene has passed away, another email arrived in my inbox, it read:
"It was been my absolute pleasure to sing with this group for the last 5 years. It has given me great, great, joy. Thank you for putting up with my Tenor voice; but you surrounded me with 11 others-who did better than I sang. A special thanks to-Sharon-whom has carried me all of these years. Thank you all, for all of your friendships. Until we sing again... Good luck at your next concert! Break a leg!"
Gene left this world with nothing left unsaid. His funeral service spoke to the importance of family, faith and love. His final email will forever remain a precious reminder of a man I greatly admired and affirmation that creating beauty through music is a worthwhile calling.
I will miss you, Gene.
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