I rarely find myself at a loss for words but I am finding that the case during the last 24 hours, after receiving the news of the loss of an old and dear friend. Allan was my high school band director, and in mid-November he was placed in intensive care due to pneumonia. In the course of his treatment it was discovered that he has advanced and inoperable cancer in his liver and lungs. He went peacefully into the arms of the Lord shortly after midnight this past Tuesday.

Alan was much more than just a teacher; he rescued me at a time in life when I was drowning, so to speak. He rescued me by giving to me, through the gift of music, the hope of something that was worth living for. I was not a Christian at the time, and so this was a lifeline. However, in thinking back on a great many fond memories of him, I came to the conclusion that most of the lessons I learned from him have had little to do with music. I can say that he led a strong Christian life, because I see in retrospect how much of what he taught came from his own walk with Jesus.

He taught me that what unites people is so much more important to focus on than what divides them. I experienced that as a member of his band, and I observed the truth of it in so many other members of the band who would otherwise have nothing in common. It is a lesson I apply even today as I as I look at the Body of Christ and realize it is more important that we find unity through Jesus than to let Satan divide us by denominational or doctrinal differences.

Alan taught me that it is important to show care, concern, and love for people no matter what mistakes they might make. I made lots of mistakes both during and after my time in his band, but he never stopped treating me as a person of value, even at times when I know he must have been deeply disappointed in me. In the brief time I spent as a band director myself, I found myself measuring my successes as a teacher using the scale of whether I did the same with my own students.

He taught me that there are some things worth doing for no other reason than that they are the right things to do. Of all my memories of him which stick with me, it is the memory of walking down a snowy Chicago street with him during a band trip that has truly gripped me over the years. He stopped when a homeless man asked him for money, then led the man into a nearby McDonald’s to buy him a burger and a hot cup of coffee. I can’t remember much of anything else about that trip, but the compassion for others I learned from his example has proved indelible.

He taught me the importance of taking whatever work I do seriously, but not taking myself too seriously at all. That’s a lesson that has carried over into my Christian ministry, no matter what form it has taken.

I am saddened at the thought of there not being an Allan in this world. As Mike Hudson has posted at Every Sphere: “December is not meant for funerals.  It is meant for parties, joy, family and friends getting together, laughter, presents, singing old songs, worshipping the new born King, but not funerals.” I grieve, and I pray for the wife and daughter that Allan leaves behind. Overpowering that grief is an incredible sense of thankfulness that the Lord would place such an angel of mercy as him in my life. I am thankful that Allan made such a difference not just in my own life, but in the lives of all of his students. I am thankful that if you are reading this, then in some way he has impacted your life through me, as Allan has impacted all the people who are part of the lives of the men and women he helped his students to become.

R.I. P.