The people that come into our lives add texture and color to our journey through life. In 2003 Susanne and I moved to metro Detroit. It was there that I met Don St. John and my life is better for him being a part of my life. Don worked for General Motors and was the worship leader at our church. He did both with excellence and heart. He was simply the best! Don and I hung out a lot and laughed and cried over many meals, cups of coffee and espresso. We shared life together and I look back on our time together as some of the best days I have experienced. Don and I were only three months apart in age.
Don was the worship leader at church for 25 years and worked with a few pastors. I know no one who transitioned more to be an effective leader and witness than Don. When he started leading worship three-piece suits and hymns were in vogue. Today it is choruses and skinny jeans. Don was good at singing and leading both. Only Don could look good in suits and ties and untucked shirts and jeans. At the memorial service, I shared one of our last conversations there at the church in December of last year. I said to him after the service “Don I love your spiked hair, your untucked shirt, and your skinny jeans. Don, thanks for making us old people relevant again!”
Don had an incredible singing voice, yet his talent never went to his head, he remained humble and Christ-centered. At the service this week, we were all amazed at the number of patents and awards Don earned over the years. Don never hung them on the wall, they remained in a box stored in some obscure place covered with dust. That is the Don I knew and loved. Successful by any definition yet a humble servant of the Lord.
I learned many things from hanging out with Don for eight years:
1 Service for the Lord is what matters. What we do for him is what is important.
2 Talent is great, grace is essential. Don was as talented as anyone I have been around, yet more than his talent his love, kindness, generosity and gracious manner is what I will always remember.
3 Friendships are valuable. Of all the titles and accolades Don possessed and received my favorite way to describe him is that he was my friend!4 Live in the moment. If only I had known last December that I would never see Don again on this earth I might have done some things differently. I have texted him during the intervening weeks yet December was our last face to face contact. If there is something you need to say to someone say it today! If there is an apology you need to make, make it today! We only have today and in fact, we only have this moment, therefore, we must seize it. 5. Priorities matter. Don loved the Lord, He loved his family, he loved his church, work, and friends. He was fiercely loyal and generous to all. Don had his priorities worked out.
6 Be an overcomer. Like all of us, Don experienced setbacks from time to time. Like all of us he had things in his life that he needed to work on, and he did. Regardless of the circumstances, including his disease he fought and showed us all how an overcomer lives and dies.Don, until we meet again, thank you for your life and your investment in me and countless others. Because you were in my life I am a better person. I love you and I can not wait to hear you sing in heaven.
To Don’s family and friends my most sincere condolences, you are in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks for sharing Don with all of us, Don was a gift to me and I will never forget him!
Don St. John and his youngest daughter Savannah