Mozarteum

Mozarteum Doors

I once took some private lessons with a man by the name of Terry McCombs (1945-2007).  He studied for a time at Universitat Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.  He showed me a number of photos and told me of his experiences there.  I felt and relived many of the experiences he had there.  While I was on my mission, he helped prepare an application for me and even had a friend of his come do an interview with me in Manchester, England.  In the end, the costs and personal inadequacies lead me to make decisions that took me in other directions away from music altogether.  At any rate, when I was in Salzburg, I made a point to stop and visit the Mozarteum.  I have thought about the Mozarteum some over the past few weeks and have those “what might have been” thoughts.  I don’t know they would have accepted me, and I certainly know it would have been a battle to learn German as well as music.  The thought still scares me.  But here are the doors which could have been an entirely other world.

Favorite Script

It is a common thing.  We are supposed to have our favorites.  I am not sure why.  With such a large body of material, why do we have to pick out a few favorites, or even a ‘most favorite’?  In some senses, it doesn’t seem quite right.  Do we have a favorite child?  Do we have a favorite cousin?  Do we have a favorite anything?  I guess the question is more, ‘should we’?

Perhaps it is the world or a weakness tendency in the human race.  Another one of those great weaknesses like pride.  Really, I guess it just is a manifestation of pride.  Usually favorites seem to indicate those things that are most kin to us.  They are those things which somehow seem to reflect or speak of us.

When in the whole, aren’t we supposed to take the whole?  Take into consideration all?  Preferences seem okay, but they are the easy route.  Is this another reason we don’t like missionary work?  We are forced to work with those people who are not our favorites?  Or we are afraid we won’t be a favorite anymore?  Who knows.

Through the years, I have had one scripture which seems to reflect my feelings and passion of life.

One night as I spent the evening in the home of Terry McCombs, he gave me a scripture to think about before I retired for the evening.

“Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessings which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.”  (D&C 67:3)

As I laid there in the old comfortable bed, I read this scripture.  There happened to be a set of scriptures on the bedside and I did not have my own.  I could read it and think about it.  It really hit me pretty hard.  A whole host of blessings which I wanted to receive, but due to fears I was not receiving.  Terry had given this scripture to me for a particular reason and fear with which I was faced.  I just could not seem to let go of it.

Somehow I felt there must be an answer to this scripture.  I did not know how to overcome fear.  I did not know how to receive.  I did not know a whole lot of things.  I still don’t.

Then somewhere around 2 or 3 AM I stumbled upon this scripture.  Somehow in nearly all instances, it still speaks to me.  When asked my favorite scripture, I almost just as quickly give the reference.  In the mission field, the scripture took a whole new meaning.  It applied to others and the work with which I was employed.  Just a couple of weeks ago Brad Hales asked me my favorite scripture.  I gave it to him just as quickly.  While I am sure he must have heard it dozens of times, it meant nothing to him, no recollection whatsoever.  Yet it has somehow always been a bedrock for me.  It is somewhat out of context, but still very applicable.

“Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.  But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day.  Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever.”  (Alma 26:6-8)

In the mission it was not to get baptisms or converts, but to put them in connection with and into the hands of the Lord of the harvest.  All people.  Member or not.  To help them make that connection.

In my personal life, despite all the storms and whirlwinds that may come, God will uphold and protect those who are faithful.  I thought of this scripture numerous times with the episode with Mom.  I thought of it with adversaries in all things.  Those who are truly converted will not be beaten or harrowed.  They are gathered to their place and singing to God.  Reminds me of “Guide us, O Thou Great Jehovah.”

“When the earth begins to tremble, bid our fearful hearts be still.  When thy judgments spread destruction, keep us safe on Zion’s hill.  Singing praises, singing praises, songs of glory unto thee, unto thee.  Songs of glory unto thee.”

May we all be more like this.  Less worrying, less fearful, more buoyant and pressing forward despite all odds.

Passing of sand; Mr. E. E.

Today waiting for a stop light, I looked for a number in my cellular phone.  There I noticed a number for a friend who passed away a few months back.  I don’t know any reason to keep it anymore, so I deleted it.  The thought crossed my mind of another friend who had passed away and found his number.  I deleted it as well.  Again I find myself reflecting with the passing of another life.  There seems to have been a number of them lately.  Terry McCombs, David Donaldson, Justin Rose, and now Evan Elliott.
I learned of Evan’s death on Halloween.  Apparently he had a massive heart attack and died at home on the 24th.  There was a pang of guilt for having not written him back two weeks before when I had felt the prompting to do so.  I wrote some others I thought would be easier to write.  I guess I am absolved of the responsibility now.  His graveside service was just a few hours ago.
Once again, I reflect on the influence of another in my life with their passing.  The flood of memories come back.  This is a relationship I don’t know I will fully understand while in this life.
On my left knee, up a few inches and outwards is a scar I carry about an inch in length.  I still remember climbing over the industrial vacuum equipment and slicing it on the corner of duct sheet sitting there.  It was a deep cut and it bled nicely.  I didn’t have stitches but whenever I think of scars it is one of the two which first come to mind on my body.  I must have been only about 6.
I remember the morning I awoke with mom sitting on the bed.  It was downstairs at the old house along the freeway.  I was about 8.  Mom came to tell me that Grandma had found out about some things with Evan and that they would be getting a divorce.  I had no clue what that meant.  But he disappeared.  That is what divorce meant to me for several years.  The tone in which she told me was one of disappointment in Evan.  There were no harsh words of his character or personality which Mom would later spew about him.  I remember not understanding but feeling it would be okay because my Mother told me so.
I remember fishing many times with Evan as a young boy.  I don’t ever remember catching anything.  But it was fun to sit on the shore and fish.  I don’t even know that we ever really even talked.  The most common spots were fishing at the lake near Hwy 27/I84 and the lake near Hwy 30/I-84.  For all I know there are not even fish in those lakes.  I think they are man made.
It seemed a regular occasion we drove to the Paul Cemetery to maintain the long flower box seated on his parents grave.  I assume it is near the place where he and his wife Shirley are buried.  It was on those days I remember playing in the cemetery and enjoying the day.  I remember the day I stumbled on Wes Charles drunk next to a tombstone.  I knew him from Dad’s work and couldn’t understand why he was different.  I think that is the first time I realized people were different when they were drunk.  He was beside himself sobbing.  Evan explained to me that those stones were not just there for looks but were monuments to people who were buried beneath.  That was why Wes was upset, he presumably had family buried beneath.  I think this was my first introduction to understanding death.  Cemeteries horrified me afterward.  It wasn’t until my Great Grandmother’s funeral in 1987 that I saw a dead person and understood more of those people buried beneath the tombstones.  A large tombstone near the entrance of the Paul Cemetery became the image of my nightmares.  I have since made peace with death, but still the image of the large “Duff” tombstone seems to be the epitome of death for me.  It proclaimed the finality of death.  In later years learning the gospel and about the resurrection removed much of the nightmare, but it haunted me for a very long time.  I imagined in my mind the placing of a body into the ground and when nobody was around who remembered, as Evan regularly did, you were forever gone.  While Evan probably had no clue the effect of all this, he played a very real part of it.
There were many, many homes I went with Evan where he did sheetrock work.  Oddly, it is with Evan that I have my first memories of my Aunt Sergene.  We stopped at her and Bert’s place for something.
Growing up, Evan always seemed to be seated in the big leather chair in the family room at Grandma’s.  Somehow, I was oblivious, or he was just always good enough, that every time it seemed I passed the chair, usually at high speed, this arm would appear and scare the daylights out of me.  I guess he was just always in the chair enough that he became a part of the chair.  Perhaps it was such a rare thing he was in it that it scared me, I don’t know.  It was a good scare, not a bad scare.
Evan grew up in a home that was on the same property that Grandma’s house was.  I don’t remember the house standing, but I seem to remember the day it burned down.  The old barn out back of Grandma’s, the little tar paper shack, the hayrake were all part of what was once his childhood.  I felt a connection to it as he did.  I remember filling in what was left of the foundation years later and feeling the sadness of what passed with the house.  There was some debate that somebody burned it down, I don’t remember who was the one accused.  There were tombstones on the other side of the canal I remember Evan taking me to in the trees.  There was a tombstone there by the barn which would move around through the years.  I don’t know if they had anything to do with Evan’s ancestry, but he knew their location and felt enough to watch over them.
There were the occasional day when he would appear at our house along the freeway to visit.  Mother did not make him welcome from what I remember.  He longed to see us.  I always felt he favored “Sissy” over me but that was okay.  I knew he loved us.
I always remember keeping him at a distance.  I remember seeing Grandma crying a few times and she would tell me how much she felt betrayed and hurt by Evan.  Add that to Mom’s sharp denouncements and I locked my heart to him.  I remember one time seeing him at the house along the freeway and nobody was there but Andra and me.  We went up to him and Andra hugged him but I refused.  I remember the tears he shed that day.  I do not know if he understood what was in my heart and thoughts that day.  I have never been able to overcome that emotional block.  I do remember he came to visit less and less over the years.  Christmas and birthday cards were about all that remained.  He remarried about two years later to his highschool sweetheart.
Due to the nature of him leaving our lives I always called him Mr. E. E. in the present of Grandma and other family members.  Mother had other choice words.  I don’t remember Grandma being harsh on his memory, just more disappointed.
My next memory has him at my missionary farewell.  He came for all of the church service and gave me a monetary gift and said he was not staying to not cause concern with Grandma and the rest of my family.  I do not know if he stayed for the farewell or not.  I tend to think he did.  I do know he was there at my missionary homecoming two years later.  Grandma had passed away and he sat in the overflow section.  He lingered after the homecoming crowd of well wishers had dispersed and I walked him to his Buick in the north parking lot.  He had a cane at the time.  We visited for a moment and he shed some tears then.  He told me my Grandmother would be proud.  I don’t remember holding ill will, but a bit annoyed that he came to the homecoming.
Since that time we have kept in contact via mail.  We responded through letters several times a year until the past year it has increased in number.  Mostly because he collected spoons and I was a traveling maniac with Amanda.  We purchased spoons for him in nearly all the places we would go and would send them to him.  He repaid us for all of them.  I don’t know I would have done it just out of the kindness of my heart or at least so many.
Some time in 2004 Evan called me and told me he was heading to Salt Lake to a doctors appointment.  He knew I was spraying lawns for Larry and wanted to know if he swung through Cache Valley if we could do lunch.  I wasn’t particularly interested but was nice and agreed.  We ate lunch at a little Mexican Restaurant in Smithfield.  It was good food and we discussed just the lighter topics.  Nothing of too much interest other than the fact he brought me an envelope of pictures.  I had been mining him for information about Grandma and the family.  He had not been very forthcoming until this day.  I finally quit asking him about Grandma and asked him about him.  He brought photos and I took them and scanned them all for him.  He had very few pictures of him and Grandma, at least that he shared.  You will notice that I have added the Elliott Family Album to my pictures with Evan’s passing.  These are the photos that had only to do with him I kept copies of.
He did finally disclose information on how he met Grandma, some of their courtship, their leaving each other, and their activity in the church.  Some of which comments I believe I have even posted here on the blog.
In reflecting upon his death I have a variety of feelings.  I still feel a sense of betrayal and emotional blockade.  A distancing I maintain for reasons I do not understand nor would I know how to dismantle them.  There is also a pity or sadness I feel.  Evan always seemed like such a lonely soul.  I don’t believe he was depressed or anything like those types of feelings.  He was married three times I know of.  The first two ended in divorce.  The third one was his highschool sweetheart for which he had pictures of from that time.  He had no children.  Even in his death, it was a time before someone found him after his death.  In looking back I see a man longing for belonging and love and I feel some guilt for offering none more than friendship.  He loved us as his own children, he told us that many times.  I feel a sense of release in a commitment that seemed to be a burden.  I have no ill feelings for him and want to weep that I feel a release in his passing.  This doesn’t seem my nature to harbour what appears to be some malice or bondage to another.  I do not understand the array of feelings I feel with Evan’s death or in reflecting on what I know of his life.  I am not sure I will ever truly understand in this life.  I am saddened by his death though and that the relationship we have has been growing and increasing incrementally over the years since the mission.  Perhaps it is the loss of what could have been in the healing of our relationship.  That is certainly a brighter light to look at the scenario, the disappointment of my wanting to mend the broken bridges of the past.
Regardless, I have taken an inventory of my life to a degree.  Are there other people who I can do more in extending love and fellowship to?  Is this a tragedy?  Was he really lonely or my imposed desire for him to be lonely from the betrayal I felt of him in hurting Grandma?  He mentioned his fighting in Korea and how he still often thought of it.  What happened?  Does that explain some of the rest of his life?  I will not know in this life.
Who met him on the other side of the veil?  Has Grandma and him at any point met to bring any more reconciliation they did not find in mortality?  I sense tragedy in the life of Evan’s parents.  Were they present and are they all finding their ‘rest’ from mortal cares?  Tragedy seems somehow to be the word to describe Evan’s life to me.  Tragedy to me or to him?
As I survey the world around me I think how time marches on.  Each and every sand grain falls through the constricted glass.  Each is numbered and recognized in their place even though not every grain is noticed.  How much are our lives the same?  Some more recognized than others.  But each has our part, whether large or small.  “I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.”

TV’s and such

It seems to be one of those weeks where there isn’t necessarily a whole lot to tell.  So to make an entry, and anything with a little length, I will offer a smattering of thoughts from all over the spectrum.
A big Happy Birthday to Chris Horsley and Amanda Smith on the 14th.  I sent them both e-mails and wished them the best.  It is my Aunt Jackie’s birthday on the 25th, so Happy Birthday ahead of time.
Tuesday night Amanda and I went to pay a visit to Doris Coley.  She lives over in Laurel Fork area.  Amanda has worked with her for some time at Macy’s.  She lured Amanda over there in pursuit of a free TV and DVD player.  I really don’t care if we own either and would actually prefer not to.  That is just a little more weight I will have to worry about moving in a year and another distraction to take away some of what little time we mortals have been given.  Somehow I had come to believe it was a venture where we would go over and pick up the newly acquired property and head back home.  We made an evening of it.  We chatted about the nice lovely pleasantries of the life at Macy’s.  Conversation turned to life in general and school.  Of course I did a full analysis to see if her Coley line could in any way be related to mine (Hers is several hundreds of years in North Carolina making at least that long of a connection seeing how mine came directly from England).
She had a nice little piano in her living room that also became conversation.  She invited me to play it and before long I was in my own land while the women pondered paths I didn’t care to walk.  Before the night had ended we sang some hymns and even ended in a discussion about religion.  I ended the evening with giving her a copy of the Book of Mormon and basically a first discussion.  Sometimes I feel I am not as bold as I once was.  Honestly, it seems that one relies upon their companion so much to bear testimony and Amanda had no clue of the missionary ways that I think that is the only reason it felt pretty weak.  Sadly, I think both of us relied on trying to convince too much rather than just bearing testimony and letting the Spirit drive it to the heart.  Amanda left thinking we had been too bold and I left thinking we had not been bold enough.  She called us a few days later and made sure we were still planning on coming back.  Either way, we don’t seem to have offended.  I look forward to a return visit and whether or not she read any of the newly introduced sacred scripture.
Tonight I paid a visit to the Family History Library outside my normal working hours.  We had a pretty severe thunderstorm this evening and the two ladies working inside decided to go watch the storm for a minute.  Sadly, they left their keys in the library.  I rushed down thinking I would find two drowned older ladies.  Luckily enough they had only locked themselves out of the library, and not the building.  So I spent some time visiting with them about the Merrick’s of Maine/Massachusetts.  They decided to leave early so I played the piano and practiced some singing until a member of the Stake Presidency appeared to practice basketball.
Tuesday night at the library also proved to be interesting.  For the second week in a row a young man who is a recent convert came into the library to do some research.  He appeared with his laptop last week with PAF newly downloaded.  He started putting in his family.  He is preparing to go to the temple and wanted to do some of his own names for baptisms in about two weeks.  He never even knew who his Dad was last week.  This week he came back with dates and places and interestingly, was able to link him into the Cosby line.  Once we did that we were able to take him back to Jamestowne and even followed the line back 1,000 years.  He comes from a noble line in England.  He was amazed to find ancestors on both of his lines whose temple work had been done.  Some as early as 1932 in the Mesa, Arizona Temple.  I look forward to seeing him this coming Tuesday when we run these names through TempleReady.
Last Sunday we had our Stake Priesthood Meeting.  We were introduced to the new Mission President, President Millburn.  I prefer him much more than the last one.  He seems much more humble and able to connect with an audience.  In addition, he gave a great talk on fishing.  He is an expert at it, that is for sure.  Who else uses a stomach pump on a fish?  President Mullins (who interrupted my singing and playing tonight) gave a talk about various topics.  One was that individuals in the stake are not carrying their weight in fast offerings.  I thought that was interesting.  None of the other talks I remember.  However, the power in the singing was easily felt.
Today I was branded again at work due to a broker’s dishonesty.  A man gave me a complete sob story about why an appraisal was sufficient.  He manipulated my inexperience in working someone else’s loan, added with the other person not recording what they had done, and my not being thorough enough to catch the little red flags has now cost the bank a loan which is considered a risk and investors will not buy it.  Due to my approving of an updated appraisal, that wasn’t really updated, and the bank always standing by their word somebody got away with money that probably would not have been approved.  Like speeding tickets with points, I have now gained my first and hope they will wear off over time…  It is a good thing I no longer have access to that broker’s information for I would surely give him a phone call and let him know how sorely disappointed I am in him.  At any rate, “Let God choose between me and thee and reward thee according to thy deeds.”
Terry McComb’s funeral is going to be this coming Saturday.  I so wish I could be there.  Alas, we can’t do everything we want in life.  His obituary appeared today in the Times News.  I looked at it this morning at work.  I am looking forward to having my own clipping from the newspaper for my records.  I guess I will just have to pay a visit to the cemetery next time I get back to Idaho.  I so planned on spending a day or two in Branson on the way home for a lesson or two.  I guess I won’t now, at least stay for lessons.
We are headed up to Washington, DC again this weekend to attend the temple.  I am very much looking forward to it.  I have very much felt my faith increase this week and my soul feeling greatly nourished after some experiences in the scriptures.  2 Peter 2 and Ether 12 were powerful this week.
We received the Church News today and I read the parts about the new Brazil Temple.  I was thinking how excited President Faust must be to have the temple dedication coming up and realized he had passed away.  I guess he will be there at any rate, but not with a mortal body.  I wonder who will be called next.  I surely hope it is someone independent from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  I certainly think tradition and order are a good thing but it is always nice to shake things up from time to time.  Too often people get so rigid about the way things should be done we forget the role of inspiration being mixed in the bag.  I would really like to see a President of the Church not be the most senior Apostle.  How would that be for shaking things up?  We need more John Winder’s, Reuben Clark’s, Jedediah Grant’s, Hyrum Smith’s, and Charles Nibley’s in the world.
Lastly, I will end on a political note.  I haven’t had a political candidate really catch much of the sympathies of my heart.  They seem so canned and stale I can’t stand it.  However, Obama gave a comment this week about opening up government.  Boy, if reading an article ever stopped my heart, that was one of them.  A candidate willing to give full disclosure to the public?  If that becomes his whole purpose in life, I will most certainly vote for that man.  Well, that is only after he drops universal health care.  After my experiences in England,  will never support government ran health care.  But open disclosure?  How refreshing.  That requires more effort.  That requires doing things you know the whole country can be privy to.  Where would Bill Clinton be if he had known that?  How would things be different with Bush?  Either of them?  Watergate?  Iran-Contra?  New Deal?  War?  How would the world be different?

Farewell to Terry

 

Yesterday early afternoon I received a phone call to notify me of the death of a dear friend.  There is always an interesting surge of emotions with the death of a person, especially one you feel such a kinship with.  Somehow though, I couldn’t help but feel a total sense of relief and release.

Terry McCombs was born in Rupert, Idaho and grew up on the farm outside of Rupert.  He graduated from Minico in probably its most notable time.  He went to school when Minico was known nationally for its band program.  The high school was still under 10 years old and Southern Idaho was in the Post-war boom.  Some of his mentors both in choir and band were to forever influence his life.  There was something about the farm soil and the passion of music that set Terry on his future.

I met Terry for the first time in 1997.  I had been asked to accompany a friend, Elena McBride, on the piano for a vocal number she was doing.  She wanted me to meet her vocal coach, Terry McCombs.  There was a McComb’s in my grade who I knew and one just younger who was in choir and who I knew more through friends.  These both turned out to be Terry’s niece’s.  Our meeting took place in Terry’s childhood home where his mother still lived with Terry’s brother’s family.  We sat there at the piano and I played perhaps a few chords when Terry asked me if I sang.  I confessed that I had no singing talent whatsoever and had never really tried.  He took over at the piano bench and then began to have me try a few exercises.  He attempted for hours to get beyond my modesty (my attempt to cover a poor voice).  After several hours, Elena’s lesson turned into an reworking of my thinking concerning singing.  For the most part of which he was very successful at rewiring.  Afterward I remember Elena being upset that her lesson was all about a lesson for me.

Terry had me commit to come to a lesson with him in a studio apartment he was using within about a mile from his home.  It was a little bedroom in the loft and a little living room below with a couch and piano.  I seem to remember a small kitchen and bathroom in the entry level.  We descended into the little living room about a week later and he sat on the couch and I sat in the chair.  Terry always had it a bit on the cool side but it definitely was cozy.  He then spent about an hour teaching me the doctrine of singing.  I remember him offering a prayer that seemed to turn my heart to complete mush.  I was so overwhelmed at such a powerful experience.  Coming from an inactive LDS home, I had no real clue what it was I was experiencing.  I had prayed before, and even seen prayers answered, but never had I experienced what I did that day.  Heaven literally descended and engulfed us that day.

After teaching me on the doctrines of the restoration of all things and of singing he then went on to teach me what he knew and how he knew it.  He bore powerful testimony of what it was he was teaching that day.  I remember openly weeping for the joy that engulfed my heart and how I recognized my life changing before my very eyes.  My very nature was changing in that room.  We then went to the piano and he began to unravel to me some of my physical nature.  I admit I understood more the nature of my throat, singing, and of life then than at any point in my life, probably even since.  It was interesting how he always framed everything with a view for eternity and the building of Zion.

What came from my mouth, from my very heart, was so beautiful we both wept.  Terry sang a song for me that even today haunts me with how beautiful it was.  He then sang a song from Rigoletto that was simply amazing.  He sat at the piano and I sang a song that day which I have not been able to sing since.  It haunts me how beautifully I sang and it kills me I have not been able to sing like that since.  There was such an outpouring of the Spirit.  I do not know if I can ever share what happened that day.  The gifts of the Spirit were present and angels ministered to us.

We met many, many times again in that little elevator to the heavens.  Sadly, I don’t know what happened after a couple of months.  Whether it was my pride or influences in his life, but it began to falter.  We started meeting again in his parents house and doing lessons there which were interrupted and never of much value.  We then started meeting in his home, the old out garage converted into a studio/living room connected to a trailer.  It was never quite the same.  I really don’t know why to this day.

My Senior year at Minico brought the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  I don’t remember how many lessons before the play I had with Terry but I had such a zeal with singing now I auditioned for the play.  I had been singing in the choir now for a little while.  I totally bombed the audition but somehow I was still put in as one of the brother’s.  Honestly, I did so poorly I didn’t know if they would let me even be a dancer.  That is how badly I auditioned vocally.  I could never translate how I could sing in lessons to doing it in front of other people.  I was terrible when anyone else listened.  Even the State Solo Competition I sang for and did so poorly I didn’t even finish the song.  The choir helped me some.  Good thing it was an open class.

Terry helped a number of us quite a bit with our singing for that play.  I improved considerably under Terry but never could find the voice I had in our lessons on stage.  It drove me completely crazy to know how heavenly it could be and it just never translated outside the studio.  Our lessons continued and I learned a great deal.  We continued to cover the history of music and the mechanics of the voice.  All of which I still feel like I have a pretty good handle since I was learning them from a spiritual perspective.

Minico ended and my whole life had now become engulfed in music.  I had my musical training from band all the way from 6th grade.  I could read and understood basics of music.  I had taught myself a half dozen new instruments in high school and I wrapped up high school putting on finishing touches to play the piano in the mission and learning the master the voice.

I went to Utah State knowing how much I loved music but I would not be pursuing a degree in anything related to it.  It was completely my hobby.  I went home at least every couple of weeks.  Due to situations at home I would either stay with my Grandma or I would stay with Terry.  We often spent all Friday night in a lesson.  It was something about the two of us that somehow we connected and heaven was with us.  I don’t know if he had these experiences with others.  I know he had in the past but I sensed it wasn’t happening with others at the time.  He often expressed his frustration with me at how he wished others wanted to learn just for the sake of learning rather than trying to do it for publicity, pride, or money.  He knew I had nothing to pay him and I wasn’t about to ask my parents for more money since they were helping me through school.  I think that is one thing that changed later.  When his situation got a bit more desperate and he needed money I had nothing to offer and he was required to spend his time teaching paying students.

The time came for the mission and I was prepared.  My own research and experience on my own time had gained me many experiences with the Spirit.  I had come to gain a personal testimony of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Prophets and Apostles, Priesthood, and a bunch more.  I think one thing that was unique is that Terry had opened me up to a very different side of religion.  It wasn’t just the knowledge of it or doctrines, but it was the personal experiences with it.  Through college our lessons moved from the vocal aspects to mostly discussing religion and sharing experiences.  I had obtained many new experiences with heaven and Terry had a wealth of them to share as well.  I think many thought I was a bit crazy with how literally I was experiencing my associations with the other side of the veil but Terry always understood.  I remember my Grandma would get so excited when I told her about some of the experiences.  She would tell me of some of her own.  Mom I instantly recognized was out to kill or denounce anything of which I was experiencing.  She quickly would tell me how it was a cult and I was being brainwashed.  When I would confront her about how literally some of my experiences were she would chalk it up to hallucinating or something else.  Terry and Grandma were two who understood.

It was such an interesting road.  My roommates at college I don’t think knew how to take what was happening.  Some were very understanding at the beginning, others finally warmed to it.  By the end of the school year at Utah State we had all experienced some things together.  The turmoil and emotions of the year were difficult with my parents divorcing and the changing face in so many relations.  The roommates weathered all those and were very understanding.  But the thing I remember most is the little spiritual times I had with each of them and interestingly have bonded each of us together since.  All four of them we continue to feel very closely united even despite distance and time.

Terry offered to have someone provide the musical number for the mission farewell.  He did and I was very grateful.  Surprisingly, he offered some money to help pay for the mission that makes me blush that he would give it to me.  He never wrote a letter, I don’t think I ever wrote him a letter during those two years, but we had communication.  I remember one night I had a dream of a phone call to Terry while I served in Eccles.  It was after my Grandmother had passed away.  We chatted about a few things and I told him of my experiences with Grandma after she passed away.  He told me of some of the experiences he had with his own father after he passed away.  It helped confirm what I was experiencing.  In the dream he told me to get a copy of Parley P Pratt’s Autobiography and to read it.  After I returned home from the mission and had been home a few weeks, Terry called me.  What I had totally passed off as a powerfully spiritual dream came very close to home when he asked if I enjoyed Brother Pratt’s book.  That is just the way Terry was.

Terry asked me to come to visit him in Branson, Missouri after I returned from the mission.  I went to visit him in a heartbeat.  Terry wanted to start lessons again and asked me to move to Branson.  I went back home and made arrangements and headed out for Missouri.  It turned out to be a wonderful experience.  I thoroughly loved my time while I was there.  He mentioned that I was there for two purposes: To learn to love in a way unselfishly and to gain some great experience to carry me throughout my life.  He proved to be very prophetic on both accounts.  I learned to love in several ways which hurt terribly.  I definitely learned some lessons there.  I learned some valuable lessons in management, the corporate world, missionary work outside the mission, and family history.

Terry and I both lived under the same roof with several other families the first year I was there.  It turned to be a very wonderful experience.  I had three families I could call my own in the same house.  Each of them taught me some very important lessons.  Without going into details, it proved to be a time I still find myself thankful for in prayer.

I remember one night I had a dream where I had a dream in answer to a prayer.  I woke up afterwards and immediately went to knock on Terry’s door.  At 3:00 AM in the morning I recounted to him my experience and we both wept for joy.  He shared with me an experience where one of his prayers had been answered by dream just nights before.  This was the type of connection I had with Terry.

Interestingly, it is how merciful heaven is in dealing with us.  Terry definitely had a personality.  Some characteristics I will openly admit drove me crazy.  His little antics sometimes were detestable at how he treated others.  Even me a couple of times.  At other times I could not help but feel sorry for him with the struggles he had on so many fronts.  He had a temper.  He had his bias nature.  He had all his imperfections.  He was not a physically beautiful man by any real means.  However, his heart was something different.  I sat in on many lessons and it was interesting how completely different some of them were.  Some of them it seemed he was trying to impress them so he could gain their trust.  Some it seemed he had to debase himself to get the heart.  Others it appeared he had to bully them.  Every lesson was very different.  I never understood if he was catering to the personality of each or what it was.  My lessons were very direct, even almost unspoken at times.  It was not uncommon for a look to communicate everything.

When it came time for my leaving Branson, we both knew.  I only saw Terry a couple of times after that.  In fact, I think it was only twice after.  Once was in Utah and the last time was a year ago as Amanda and I drove on our way to Virginia.  We stopped and spent several hours with him.

I spoke with him on the phone for over an hour just a month or so ago and he was in good spirits.  It was with a bit of shock I received the phone call telling me he had passed the night before.  Somehow though, it seems like it would be the way Terry would do it though.  My first reaction was that little scoundrel did this on purpose.  But then I sensed a peace about the whole thing and it was meant to be.

In looking back, Terry always introduced me to people as the one with a pure soul.  I don’t know if it is true or not, but I always wanted to be a little better with that title.  Terry always had people who either loved or hated him.  People somehow switched those sides often with him.  I never understood why.  But something about the man endeared people and also brought on some of the strongest criticism.  But in the end he usually weathered it well.

I haven’t had any experiences with Terry spiritually for a couple of years now.  Perhaps we just grew apart.  But now that he has passed, I anticipate something small, at least for a temporary good bye.  If not, this is my little pushing off the ship of a good friend.  I will see you later mate.  I love your soul.

Traveling to Virginia Day #4

The Sabbath has now passed.  So I thought I would share a little update before we get going on the road today.
We ended up staying for sure with Andy and Becky Hughes.  They have been more than kind to us.  Keeping us up, visiting with us, and providing some wonderful food.  Breakfast of waffles and such, with dinner of homemade lasagna.  All very good.

Went to church in the Branson 2nd Ward.  It was good to see so many old friends.  We ran into Gary & Kathy Freeman, Sheila Dutton, Marty & Cindy Hughes, Ryan & Carina Hughes, Gary & Lena Hughes, Adam & Vikki Hughes, Merrill Osmond, Jason & Mara Hughes, Steve Arvig, Doug Lowe, and many others.  It was great to be back in town.  The opening hymn was absolutely powerful.  All the hymns were sang in faith.  What a refresher.  The closing hymn was America the Beautiful, and most of the families have performed this show before so it came out in 6 part harmony in Sacrament Meeting.  It is amazing how music changing the power of a meeting.  It was Testimony Meeting, which was good, despite the usual missionary field-interesting ones.  All of church was great, especially to see so many old friends.

After church we came home and dressed more comfortably and chatted for a while.  We were scheduled for dinner with the Lowe family.  We went over and had a wonderful dinner.  The missionaries were there, one of which Amanda graduated from school with.  Anna Badger, Lee and Korinne Hamblin, and Kayli also had a friend.  Dinner was patriotic and tasteful.  I ate way too much.

After visiting with the family, Kami Lowe, and Anna Badger we headed to visit with Terry McCombs.  We ended up being there for several hours discussing physics, resonance, the build of the vocal instrument, and Zion.  It sure was good to visit with him again.

We returned to Andy and Becky’s, visited for a few hours, and then crashed for the night.

Today we head off to Lexington, Kentucky.  Hopefully all goes well.