Saturday, June 3, 2017


Yesterday, I received the unwelcome news that Joseph Erwin, my first piano teacher, lifelong mentor, and dearest friend had died the night before. He was 94, and had not been feeling up to par for the past several months, but he and his wife, also 94, have been living on their own, in the beautiful, custom-built, North Carolina mountaintop home they've enjoyed for the past forty years. All who knew and loved Joe feel blest he never had to suffer through a painful, protracted final illness, and was never threatened with the dreadful prospect of having to enter a nursing home. 

For well over sixty years he has been the wisest, kindest, most insightful, most challenging, most illuminating, –– and the most honest –– person I’ve been 
privileged to know. 

I can’t say I shall miss him, because in a very real sense he will always be with me, but it may not be quite the same for his dear wife, also a cherished, lifelong friend, because truly the two of them became “one flesh” in seventy-two years of marriage more than most married couples I've known could claim. 

The following words by Emily Dickinson have helped sustain me through many crises involving loss and pain, so I offer them here to help others cope with grief and loss 
as sooner or later all of us must.

While I was fearing it, it came,  
But came with less of fear,
Because that fearing it so long  
Had almost made it dear.

There is a fitting a dismay,
A fitting a despair.
’T is harder knowing it is due,  
Than knowing it is here.

The trying on the utmost,  
The morning it is new,
Is terribler than wearing it  
A whole existence through.

~ Emily Dicksinson (1830-1885)

It is only because of Joe's influence that I am able to appreciate fully the solemn beauty and great depth of music like these mystical songs by Samuel Barber. 
I hope they may touch your spirit too.

~~~~~~ § ~~~~~~

"And so he passed over to the Other Side, and all the trumpets sounded for him."

~ John Bunyon - The Pilgrim's Progress (1678)


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Speedy. It was nice of you to come by.

  2. FT,
    My condolences.

    But how wonderful that your piano teachers was never threatened with the dreadful prospect of having to enter a nursing home! I hope that he had the consolation of passing on at home, which seems to be a beautiful place situated in the mountains.

    I do empathize with his widow. How terrible the loneliness will be!

    1. "How terrible the loneliness will be!"

      I honestly don't think so, AOW. While no one wants to let go of this life any sooner than he must, in Joe Erwin's case his character and personality were so positive, so strong, so vivid, –– and so UNIQUE –– his spirit will remain with all who knew him well till we, ourselves, finally join him.

      I had a nice long talk wth Joe less than a week before he died. He sounded good, his voice was strong, and his attitude was as positive, sellfless and fully engaged as ever, but I could tell he was "ready to go" any time.

      With no show of bravado he was always quietly fearless. He truly believed in the ultmate benevolence of Almighty God. While always hopeful, always engaged in creative endeavor, and always sincerely interested in LISTENING to and LEARNING from OTHERS, he knew how to choose his battles with great wisdom. He had the Gift of Serenity, bless him! A wondeful example for me, and all who came under his influence.

      We dare not hope for anything better in this life than to live well into our nineties, still independent, still at home with the person we have loved and shared everything with for more than seven decades, and to die at home peacefully with little or no fuss and fanfare. It just doesnt get any better than that.

      His wife, Kathleen, is one of those rare, quietly strong individuals whose unselfish devotion made it possible for Joe to live as a creative musical artist of uncompromising integrity who only sought TRUTH, and never cared a fig for "popularity." As one who did his best to emulate that fine example, I can tell you it is NOT an EASY PATH, but the INTERIOR REWARDS are far greater than any amount of material riches could be.

      The past year or so has been difficult for Kathleen, because her husband's health was beginning to fail, he was often in pain with a bad back, and was, of course low on energy. Consequently, he required more and more special attention, which as you know, can be very wearing no matter how much you love the person in need.

      At age 93, she went through hip replacement surgery, so she would be better able to continue driving into town to buy groceries, take them home, cook all their meals, and still be able to entertain friends! All this was just last year.

      I've spoken to Kathleen twice since she told me the unwelcome news, and she is doing very well. I'm sure she has expected this, and been preparing herself for it for a long time. It may sound callous to say this, but in many ways it's bound to be a RELIEF –– for BOTH these dear people.

      Frankly, I think that's the only sensible way to look at it it.

    2. My friend Lorna told me a few years after the expected loss of her husband to cancer after a long battle with that disease: "Nothing prepares you for the loss of your mate."

      It may not be sensible for Kathleen to grieve. But since when is the heart sensible?

  3. BTW, my first piano teacher opened a whole new world for me. Even though I hadn't seen him for many years, when I got the news of Mr. Boyers passing, I was glum for weeks.

    1. I understand, but while I am certainly not GLAD that I will never again be able to talk with my friend in person or see him in the flesh –– or do anything more to make his old age more pleasant, as I've tried to do long dstance for a good many years –– I am confident that our SPIRITS will ALWAYS in touch, and in that sense we will AWAYS be together.

      I've had this experience with other important figures long departed from this life. They REMAIN WITH ME and cintinue to advise, encourage and sometimes CHIDE me until the end of MY earthly days.

      This is NOT poppycock, believe me. Maybe it's a special Gift, but I rather think such channels of communication are open to ALL who are willing to make a Leap of Faith, –– leave Fear and Consternation behind, and BELIEVE.


  4. Forgot to mention how lovely the images are in the video you posted, FT.

    Very appropriate.

    1. Thank you, AOW. That is why I chose that particular performance of the Adagio for Strings. It is played by an orchestra based in New Zealand, by they way. The images from Nature may be taken from scenes in New Zealand. I don't know, but in any case their stark, somber beauty make a near-perfect accompaniment to Barber's elegiac score.

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you, Kid. I don't feel sad, but I couldn't let the occasion go by without saying something to honor the person who had the strongest and best influence on me. We knew each other for sixty-nine years, and never lost touch.

  6. Condolences. Your friend and mentor sounds like he was a remarkable person.

    1. He was UNIQUE in my long experience. I wish everyone could have known him as I did. He had a tonic effect on all who trusted his judgment.

  7. So sorry for your loss, but also glad for his life, friendship and blessings with you.

    1. Exactly right, Bay, and thank you for stopping by. I'ts always good to hear from you.

  8. I'm truly sorry for your loss

  9. I am sorry to hear this news, FT. I just got back from a bluegrass festival in Pueblo, or I would have posted sooner.

    1. Not to worry. I'm glad you were out doing something you love to do.

      This hs been for me a Big Event, but there's no reason it should affect anyone who had never worked with Joe as profoindly as it has me. But I am not "sad." I realize how fortunate I was to have this very important teacher and friend in my life for nearly seven decades.

      I just couldn't let the occasion pass without doing something to memorialize it.

      Thanks for coming by.

  10. So sorry for your loss, but also glad for his life, friendship and blessings with you.
    gclub online



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