What I know for sure…some people touch your lives, and make you a better person forever.
I got word this morning that my dear old friend, Lorn (nearly 95), passed away last night. On his way walking down the hall for dinner at the lovely Edgemere Retirement Community he simply sat down and died. He was, and had been living on “borrowed” time for the last 20 years on a series of pace-makers, but living life to the fullest! He lost his beloved wife Etha a few years ago, but had since made a life and presence (and girlfriend) for himself at Edgemere and beyond, always staying busy. He was my Aunt Alaire’s father, and as extended family members, we spent many Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations together. He was a true gentleman, a life-long musician, an accomplished pianist, and he had just retired as a carillonneur at Highland Park UMC where up until a week ago, he was climbing the winding stairs to play the bells in the bell tower on the SMU campus. I grew up sitting next to him on the piano bench learning and sing old standards and broadway hits while his long, graceful fingers moved deftly up and down the keys…“Stormy Weather”, “The Man I Love”, “Over the Rainbow”, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”. Sometimes I’d listen while he accompanied my dad, and sometimes the whole musical family would join in singing together! But he always made me feel special and talented, beautiful and loved. Our bond and friendship, mutual admiration and affection transcended the decades and generations between us. And we loved to make music together – it was truly a favorite thing to do for each of us! He has been a staple in my family and musical life since I can remember, and always a joy in the midst of the busyness and things to do – the high school activities, the college exams, the wedding planning and graduate school papers, the diaper-changing and child-rearing. Slowing down to sing – in the living room while the turkey’s cooking in the oven and the football game is on in the den, after Christmas dinner when some folks are visiting indoors, the kids are running around outside, and the dishes are being dried in the kitchen, just for fun, just for sentimental reasons, just for the love of the music and being together – it is one of life’s great gifts he taught me to embrace and enjoy, and this dying past-time will live on with me.
Dustin and I were married on July 5, 2003, the 65th anniversary of Lorn and Etha. Unbeknownst to them, we had arranged for our band to play “their” song in their honor, and to help them celebrate on the dance floor. We sent all the wedding guests home with a CD of old standard love songs that I had recorded as a surprise gift for Dustin. For years, Lorn listened to that CD nightly, virtually wearing it out. He listened while he did the dishes, or just for company in later years. He would call me and and compliment me on specific little musical choices I’d made, little things I’d done with my voice on this or that song – that suspension, that trill, that syncopation. His favorite was “Embraceable You”, and he always wanted me to sing this one with him! In recent years, I’d recruited him to team up with me for outreach projects. He and I performed some of our favorite jazz songs as the entertainment for a homeless Thanksgiving meal a few years ago. He played every week at Edgemere’s Friday “Happy Hour”, and I was honored to join him a couple of times. He accompanied my own children and a few others gathered a couple of times as we sang Christmas carols for nursing home residents, and one of the last songs we sang together was one of my favorites, “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts Roasting”…) He was perhaps my biggest fan! I hope he knew what a big fan I was of him, too.
Listen to “It Had To Be You”, the title track from my own album that Lorn loved…
My dear friend, Lorn, I will miss making music and memories with you. This song comes to my heart and mind and voice when I think of you, my friend, with tears of sadness and thankfulness in my eyes. I mean it from my heart for you. I’ve been singing it all day long, and feeling your spirit. You will live on in my song, but I’ll always be missing you and seeing you…You were a classic, and the world and my life will not be the same without you.
“I’ll Be Seeing You in all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces all day through.
In that small cafe, the park across the way, the childrens’ carousel, the chestnut trees, the wishing well.
I’ll be seeing you in every lovely summer’s day, in everything that’s light and gay, I’ll always think of you that way.
I’ll find you in the morning sun, and when the night is new, I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.”
Rest in Peace…