Don Madaris died earlier this week. He was my much-loved Uncle.His funeral is today in New Mexico. Thus, my body is in MS this beautiful, but a significant part of my heart is in a small town in New Mexico with a subset of my Madaris family helping say “goodbye” to our beloved Don
Thus, this world is less joyful. There’s less piano playing…and fewer smiles…fewer laughs…fewer jokes…less singing…fewer people who can lead a group in in a broad array of sing-alongs.There’s also less faith in the world now.
Don was my Dad’s younger brother, the youngest of his eight siblings that reached adulthood. Two of the girls are still here; my beloved Aunts Margaret and Frances. (Who flew out to New Mexico for Uncle Don’s see-you-later service this weekend.)Uncle Don was a musician. A real musician, as opposed to one like me who sings loudly in the car when nobody is around. He was a college-educated musician who made his living for a few years at the music business up in Nashville. Like all good musicians, he was creative and talented, but was also diligent to work at bettering himself in his artistic medium. It paid off, Unc! A gifted piano player & singer, Uncle Don could switch from Broadway Show tunes to classic hymns without skipping a beat. He played/acted in musicals—a family favorite was his role in “The Music Man,” and was typically called upon at family reunions to sit at the piano and play some songs to make us laugh, worship, sing, and cry.
Uncle Don was also a missionary. He lived out his faith vividly, at least throughout these past 55 years when I knew him. Our Lord called him into the ministry, and he answered that call. Music minister, and then the foreign mission field. The Caribbean and then Mexico.Uncle Don was a devoted husband. He met and married his beloved Kay when he was around 40 years old. It was so much fun to watch that love story lived out before us! They were a very good match. Similar senses of humor, similar callings,…truly a match made in Heaven.
Uncle Don was funny. One of my favorite traits of my Madaris relatives & heritage is a deep love of laughter, including at ourselves. Our family gatherings are filled with the sound of laughter, and Uncle Don was right there, leading the pack.But there was a depth to Uncle Don that was quite remarkable, and that leaves a significant wake for me to live in. At some very crucial points in my own faith journey, Uncle Don was there, offering just the right words of wise council. I remember being crushed at his brother’s funeral. Again, HIS brother. He pulled me aside & talked me through how to deal with that. At the time, I was in the midst of my own “wilderness years,” but I never heard nor sensed judgment from him. Nothing but wise, loving, faith-filled council that was never forced on me, but was always welcome when I remembered to ask.
Another time, he talked to me about marriage shortly after he & Kay married. We laughed, and we got serious. Last year, Lisa & I celebrated our 30th anniversary; part of our own marriage success is Uncle Don’s wise council before we were even engaged.I remember once when I had to step outside at a family reunion there at Uncle Jr.’s house in Lowndes County, Alabama because Uncle Don was playing the piano and singing, and I was overcome with sadness & grief about those like my Dad, his older brother who were no longer around. Somehow, it did me good to encounter one of my older cousins who had stepped out for the same reason. I apologized to Uncle Don, & he said something like “If I wasn’t the one playing & singing, I’d have stepped outside too.”
Uncle Don had fairly serious health concerns for a bunch of years. By medical probabilities, I probably should’ve been mourning his passing 20 years ago. But God in His grace, preserved Uncle Don’s life. I and many others are thankful for the extra years. During these recent years, Uncle Don served on staff at a church in New Mexico, and still found time to write articles for various magazines and perform in musicals (church and local) as he was able.
We Madarises are sadly very experienced at saying “goodbye” to a beloved family member. As one of my cousins said to me some decades back, “that’s one thing that bonds us together; our experience in dealing with death.” One might think, therefore, that by now we don’t get too upset about it. One would be wrong. I join my two aunts, a BUNCH of cousins, and a small church out in New Mexico in grieving deeply for the Music Man who left us this week.As one of the next generation down of cousins wrote, “Last night I preached a sermon on 2 Timothy 4:6-8. ‘For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’… At the end of his life, he could look back and say he gave it all for Christ. His life had been completely poured out like a beautiful fragrant offering to The Lord. At the time I preached this, I didn't realize Uncle Don would be going home. Uncle Don was such an example to me of what it truly means to be "poured out like a drink offering". His life was completely given to serve Jesus Christ. And Jesus has given him his crown! Thank you, Uncle Don, for showing me and so many others how to fight the good fight and how to keep the faith. You have finished your race and one day I pray I will run my race as fiercely as you have. I love you Uncle Don.”
Well said.Another cousin—this one of my generation—said this: “A sad goodbye to my Uncle Don Madaris, who died last night. As he was only four years older than I, we were more like brother and sister. I cherish the memories of our childhood together. He was a professional singer for years and his favorite role continued to be the con-man, Professor Harold Hill. He'll always be The Music Man to me.”
Also well said.Please join me in praying for his beloved Kay as she says the brutally painful “See you later” to her beloved Don. And for two sisters who are the only ones left of their generation now. And for many of us nephews & nieces as we grieve, chase memories, and share them. (The Family Facebook page has been a blast today as people have been chiming in with memories of Uncle Don.)
Thanks, Uncle D for living a life & faith worth emulating. Thanks for the times you & I shared laughter, tears, and wise counsel. Thanks for your ministry in Mexico all those years, and in New Mexico in recent years. I like to picture your parents, brothers, & sisters standing around a piano in Glory as you take your seat there. “We’ve been waiting for you,” they say. And then they’re joined by the One Who created music in the first place & then gifted you with a LOT of musical talent, as He says, “Me too. Well done, good & faithful servant. Play us a song.”See you later. Meanwhile, I’ll be practicing the baritone parts of the hymns & show tunes. Maybe when I join you, I’ll be to fully sing those sings well like you did when you were here.
“Where is the good in goodbye?”
Lyrics from The Music Man.
Here it is: “I know Whom I have believed & am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” The Apostle Paul.