Certain bits of news just have a way of taking one's breath temporarily. That quick adrenaline rush, followed by odd twinges of sorrow, hope, and other haunting feelings, hanging less in your mind than in your heart... This hit me Sunday, when among the announcements was listed the death of Argie Blackburn.
I never met Mr. Blackburn, never spoke to him. But I did hear him sing.
The last time he sang in church, at least that I heard, he'd chosen an old hymn. I don't remember which hymn, and I don't remember if he used piano accompaniment or a tape. I do remember that it was one of those foot-stomping gospel songs, like the Gaithers sing at their Homecoming concerts, arrangement and all.
I remember a tall, lightly-built elderly man, wrinkled and grayed, feeble enough to tremble slightly, but with a voice strong enough to touch the highest dynamics of the song and a smile that had heaven written all over it. Southern gospel music surely isn't the favorite of everyone in our church, but it didn't have to be. We're not a demonstrative congregation, but the applause that broke out after he finished came straight out of a couple hundred dancing hearts.
Argie Blackburn sang his faith, his hope, his heart and soul that Sunday, and caught us all up in his joyful spirit in the process. It was more than just the perfect matching of musician and song. It was the passion of a man who knew he was about to reach everlasting joy.
That five-minute song was the best sermon on heaven I've ever heard.
"When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be..."
I look forward to hearing Argie Blackburn sing again, in the day of rejoicing.