Special Minister’s Musing: For Marlys

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dear Ones,

I learned this morning, as many of you did, that our choir director, Marlys Brinkman, died after living valiantly with cancer for over 10 years. It was Marlys’s tremendous spirit that transformed our choir into the vibrant gift to the congregation that it is today. She will be sorely missed, but her legacy will live on through our music program.

I had the opportunity to visit with Marlys on Thursday of last week, just three days before she died. By chance, Sue Wood and Catherine Harada also stopped in on that day. Together, the three of us sang to Marlys. I wrote this poem on Friday:

for Marlys
January 18, 2013

Miles away
you lie there
the symphony of your life
slowly fading
into a whisper

In me
it grows louder
a constant prayer
an awareness
the shadow of death
not foe nor friend but presence
your life moving into
the mystery we all must confront

Yesterday I sang to you
returning the gift
you so willingly gave to others

“Spirit of Life, Come Unto Me . . . ”
my tear-streaked scraggly voice
forgot the words

you smiled . . .
tried to sing along . . .
your most prized gift
muffled in the haze of pain
and medication

I told you I loved you
kissed your forehead
and left the room
shedding tears
of loss
and gratitude

[box] Marlys Brinkman was the choir director for the Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship from 2002 — 2012. For much of that time, she was living with cancer. Creating music of any kind provided much healing to her. Her last performance with the choir was Christmas Eve, 2012. Marlys passed away on January 20, 2013. Her love of music inspired many to sing.

And now, we, as a congregation need to figure out how to live on with loss and gratitude. Details are still unfolding about a memorial for Marlys at Jefferson Unitarian Church. I’ll be in touch with Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, our intern, about any specific Fellowship events that may be desired. Because of the extended nature of Marlys’ illness, Sam Welsh, our music director, the Music Committee, the Choir and I had time to create a succession plan for whenever it was that Marlys would be no longer able to lead the choir. I’m grateful that Melissa Williams agreed to step in and be our interim choir director for the remainder of this year.

Marlys had a tremendous impact on my life. She taught me to appreciate music in new ways, and inspired me with her incredible resiliency. From my vantage point in the pulpit, I had the privilege of watching her light up as she directed our choir. It seemed that no matter how poorly she felt when she arrived, directing the choir buoyed her spirits and uplifted her body as well. Through her, I was constantly reminded of the enlivening power of keeping connected to one’s life’s calling.

Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with the Fellowship, and especially the choir, during this very tender time.

I miss our regular connection, and look forward to being with you again in April.

in peace,