Sometime in the late autumn of 1972— when I stayed at home in Harrisburg, Central Pennsylvania to help my parents get re-settled after the flood of Hurricane Agnes– my father's friend and older assistant pastor, Wallace J. Cummings died. I don't recall the exact circumstances of his death, but I do remember his funeral.
I clearly recall that talk, and remember how I very carefully phrased and characterized my remarks as "not necessarily my own." In fact, they mostly were. But I had learned the lawyer's – or politicians trick— of plausible deniability.
But the Sunday afternoon before Christmas, when we sang the same chorus—from the rear gallery below the marvelous Tiffany Ascension window—as part of the annual Christmas pageant, I had a delayed reaction, I guess, and blubbered throughout the entire piece.
Later that week, we had choir rehearsal in the Robert Lee George Chapel— for the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. My father's organist, Robert Clippinger, had been there for years. He was a superb musician with impeccable technique. He never made finger errors. His entire family –wife, two sons, and a daughter, who had made extraordinary efforts to be there— and his entire choir – were at the rehearsal.
Half way through a "Halleluia" from a Bach Christmas Cantata, Dr. Clippinger had a cerebral hemorrhage. He started to make mistakes, again, something he had never done in my memory. I was sitting behind him. I couldn't see his face, but he kept on playing. With almost super-human effort, he finished that piece. Then he toppled over—never to regain consciousness. He died two days later. For all practical purposes he died at the rehearsal.
Think about it: an organist with his family and choir at Christmas rehearsing Bach. It doesn't get much better than that.