Two years and two days ago, on March 10, 2012, Pastor Tom Givens (the former senior pastor at my church) lost a battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease and was promoted to glory. Tom, a loving father and husband and a faithful pastor of a church of thousands, left behind an incredible legacy in his devoted service to his Lord.
Pastor Tom (as I knew him) had a great impact on my life. I remember him playing hand games with us kids after services, drawing faces on our hands when our parents weren’t looking, or serving in the nursery right up until his sermon. He always seemed happiest to be with children and his jolly smile and laugh made us feel right at home.
When I first learned that Pastor Tom had Lou Gehrig’s disease, I was very deeply moved. It seemed impossible that such a strong man could be weakened so greatly. I wanted to do something to help encourage him and, one night, I had the idea to arrange his favorite song, “Jesus Loves Me”, for our church orchestra to play for him. You can listen to the recording here:
When I started arranging the piece in February, I had no idea that I would only have two months to finish it. At first, the notes came easily and I knew exactly what I wanted. My composition professor at the time graciously waived my private lesson assignments and made this song the focus of our lessons.
But just a few weeks into the piece the worst thing happened that could ever happen to a composer – writer’s block! For a week I couldn’t write a single note no matter how much I tried. I was so depressed as I felt that I was letting Pastor Tom down and I had just received word that he was doing worse.
About a week later, I was inspired by the idea to write a section expressing my emotions that wasn’t a part of the original song. This part ended up being my favorite and (in an incredible marathon of 40 hours of composing in just 3 days!) the rest came easily and I completed the song.
The Grace Baptist Orchestra, under the leadership of Lisa Hernacki, all rallied around the idea of making this their gift to honor Pastor Tom. Because Pastor Tom at this point could not travel to the church to hear it, we decided to make a recording to bring to him. With the help of sound engineer Scott Weber, we were able to complete the recording and, after 6 hours of editing, the song was finally finished.
Everything was set to present the CD and we decided to present it the following Wednesday. But then something happened that none of us expected: late that Saturday night, Pastor Tom passed away peacefully. He never got a chance to hear the the arrangement – instead, he was hearing the music of heaven.
The recording of Jesus Loves Me was played at his memorial service on April 1st, 2012.