Recently, in the span of one week, we lost two friends. One lost after a long illness, the other from a rapidly progressing illness. Each, too young to be gone from us, in my humble opinion. One, a good friend, joined us in family celebrations and other events for the past four years. The other, was more of a teacher and mentor than friend, and we hadn’t seen him in a few years, but he was an important part of my life for at least eight very formative years. Each of these gentlemen made an impact on me that will last a lifetime. For me, the oddest thing about losing a friend or loved one is the immediate regrets I feel. Why didn’t I visit more often? Why didn’t I send encouraging cards? Why wasn’t I more caring, or kinder, or more eloquent in my final comments the last time we spoke? Why wasn’t I a better friend?
Malcolm Perrault was a friend we met through our church choir. With a loud smiling friendly voice, he often asked a lot of questions during rehearsal. I only found out recently that many of those questions were ones my husband was too shy to ask and would get Malcolm to ask for him. 🙂 A Californian by birth, he’d only transplanted to Texas a few years ago, adapted like a native, and adopted each of us at church like we were family. Incredibly kind, he’d often allow different friends to share his home whenever they were in need of a temporary place to stay. He was generous, patient, and always had a smile on his face, even when things weren’t always going well. He was also a great conversationalist and could talk knowledgeably about practically anything. Many is the time, we (he and our family) were run off after choir practice because we stayed visiting later than we should – so, hey, we’d just move the conversation to the parking lot. Mostly it would be he and my hubby but I’d jump in whenever possible. How those two could go on. J
Jerry McKinney was my first true choir director in the church I was raised in. He could be so stern, then a beat later have us all in sidesplitting laughter. A shy kid back then, I didn’t sing to be heard; I just wanted to sing and improve, absorbing every lesson Jerry could teach us. My best, yet scariest moments were when we’d be singing and Jerry would look straight at me, point and say “Yes, Brenda! That’s exactly what I’m looking for!” I was so scared, I couldn’t sing a peep loud enough to be heard for the next few minutes, turning beet red, yet feeling like I’d just been handed a diamond tiara all at the same time. Directing both the youth and adult choirs, he was so great with us, that we all just loved him. He was a teacher, a motivator, charismatic, a fantastic story teller, and so much fun. Every year, he would take us on choir tours across the nation, and sometimes to Canada or Mexico. And each time, to impress upon us how important it was to act respectfully and follow the rules, he would relate some story of how things went terribly wrong on some previous tour. However, the stories were always so hysterically funny, that it presented somewhat of a challenge for some of our more wily guys, tempting them to try something stupid and thus be added to these legendary cautionary tales for Jerry to tell other future generations.
Both of these fantastic guys leave behind very sweet, loving families, and countless friends who will miss them terribly. These gentlemen left behind the kind of gifts that keep on giving – lessons we’ve learned from them, that we can pass on – in other words, they made an impact on many of us. So I ask myself, what am I doing to make a positive impact on others? Am I sharing my gifts the way I should? Are you? So, hey, hug your loved ones more often. Make that call to that old friend you’ve been putting off. Send that note, email, or letter to the friend or relative you’ve been meaning to send but haven’t. Smile and lift someone’s day. Give some encouragement to someone who seems a little down. Tell someone a funny story; sometimes laughter really can be the best medicine.