Tuesday, February 28, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0096 - Cancer, Music and Survival

One of the happiest periods of my life was when I was a teenager and young 20-something adult. I was part of a gospel group which toured Ontario churches and festivals singing and often preaching to youth groups and entire congregations in numerous denominations.

We all met as members of a church choir in Barrie, Ontario. We enjoyed singing with each other in the choir, but quickly discovered that we also had talents that worked well in smaller group settings - settings like duets, trios and quartettes, sometimes in an even slightly larger setting.

It wasn't long before there were seven of us gathering on our own time in the church to practice together. There were 4 young women and 3 young men, six of whom sang. Carol played the piano, sang alto, and was our musical arranger. Joyce was the lead female voice with an incomparable soprano voice (she also sang at our wedding). Sharon was another alto and alternate pianist/organist. These three women put together a trio that sounded fantastic.

Then there was Cindy who joined in as a meso-soprano. Bob was our tenor, often our male lead and the one who usually delivered homilies and was master of ceremonies. I was the baritone/bass. sometimes tenor, bass guitar player and occasional speaker. Doug was our rhythm guitarist.

We had so much fun arranging gospel music for voice plus piano, guitar and bass. Over the years, we won music competitions, sang in sextets, trios, quartets, duets, and solos. Bob and I eventually attended the same seminary for three years each, but were able to keep our group - called Highway - together until 1974.

Singing together was like therapy for my spirit. I met my wife while playing the bass guitar and having her come to our concerts. I introduced our pianist to a friend at college, the two of them eventually marrying and going into the ministry together. I sang at their wedding as well as at Bob's wedding.

Today, however, only 4 of the original 7 are still alive. Cancer, especially colorectal cancer, has taken its toll. Cindy died about 10 years ago of colorectal cancer. Carol and Sharon sang together at her funeral. Carol died about 2-3 years later after having sat in hospital with Cindy comforting her as she grew weak. Ironically, it was the same colorectal cancer that killed Carol. Bob passed away just a few months ago, after an illness and an accident triggered by his illness.

Just one month after Bob died, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

I often hoped that we could have joined together in song one more time, but it just didn't happen. The rest of us are scattered geographically, but we still sing or play our instruments and try to keep in contact with one another as much as possible.

Singing and friendship - and now strangely enough, cancer - are linked for me. Each of us who have been afflicted with disease, cancer or otherwise, have dealt with our circumstances in quite different ways. But I have learned much from each of my friends. My hope is that I will win my battle with cancer and remember each of them many, many times as I sing and play my guitar in the years to come.

Peace be with you Cindy, Carol, and Bob...and with you Sharon, Doug and Joyce.

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