A few weeks ago, I got my copy of my favorite show ever on DVD, thirtysomething. It aired in the 80s and ended in '91, but they're just now getting around to releasing it. If you're not familiar with it, it's basically about a group of friends in their 30s, going through all the sometimes mundane, sometimes earth-shattering stuff of life together.
In one episode near the end of the series, one of the main characters has died, and another character remarks, "I guess this is how it's going to be the older we get--just marking time between the funerals."
Tonight I'll be attending a funeral--not of a close friend, but of someone I once knew. His name was Barry Trowbridge. My brother and I went to youth group with the girl who would become his wife. They were active in the church where I grew up.
The best memories I have are of Barry singing. He had the most beautiful tenor voice. At church on Christmas Sunday one year, he sang "Bethlehem Morning," and when he finished I think everyone in the congregation was too awed and stunned to do anything. Chuck leaned over to me and whispered loudly, "Barry ROCKS!"
One month before Darren and I got married, the guy who was supposed to sing at our wedding unexpectedly said he couldn't do it. I was in a panic, and my mom said, "Why don't you call Barry and see if he'll sing?"
He said he'd gladly do it and ended up singing three songs for us, "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Be Thou My Vision," and a song from a musical, "How Blest We Are." We were a little nervous about asking him to do that one, since it's not typical wedding fare, and it's a black gospel song. "No problem, we did "Big River" [the musical it was from] in college," Barry said. And let me tell you, he nailed it when he sang.
A few years ago (when he was 40), Barry had some chest pains and visited his doctor who told him he was morbidly obese and need to lose weight and exercise. He said, "That’s when God showed me the verses in 1 Corinthians 6: Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. After that point, I finally realized that physical appearance and health weren’t perfect motivators, and were both prone to backslides and failures. However, treating my body as God’s holy temple was constant, and would also be motivating, because it was a way to give God glory. With a new sense of truth about what was important, I changed course–I really tried from that point forward to give God my exercise sessions, give Him my meals, and give Him the glory when the pounds came off."
He lost at least 60 pounds and began running, both to exercise and in 5ks. This past Saturday morning, he went out for a run at Herrick Lake in Wheaton. While he was driving home, he had a heart attack, lost control of his car, and died instantly. He was 43 years old and left behind his wife of 18 years and two daughters, ages 14 and 8.
There is another episode of thirtysomething in which someone states, "If a writer disappears, no one notices. But if a husband or a father or a friend disappears, that leaves a very big hole." As evidenced by the facebook page set up in memory of him, Barry has left a significant hole in his absence. Many people have commented on his gentleness, his kindness, his sense of humor, his commitment to God, his love for his family and friends. Someone wrote about a screensaver he had on his computer at work to remind himself to eat well, "You shall have no doughnut before me." And of course everyone remembers his wonderful voice. In fact, you can see him singing the national anthem at a White Sox game here.
Probably my favorite comment came on Sunday from someone who sang in choir with him and said she would mark a note in her score "LTB" (Listen To Barry) if she was having trouble finding the right one. She went on to say, "I bet Barry is the featured soloist in Glory today. Hallelujah!"
So even though I didn't know him that well, tonight I'll be attending his service in order to, as my friend Julie put it best, "say a thank-you for all of the joy, inspiration, peace, and comfort he brought to others over the years."
When I've thought of our wedding these past 14 or so years, I have always remembered Barry and how he truly elevated that service with his beautiful singing. Now whenever I think of that day, I'll also remember how while he was on Earth, Barry didn't just mark time--he loved God and his family, he fought his battles bravely, and he ran the race well.
II Timothy 4:7,8 "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."