Saturday, September 5, 2009
Jeff Towle 1944-2009 At Home In Glory
My good friend and pastor, Jeff Towle, died suddenly last Sunday. He had a massive heart attack at 1AM, and never recovered from the emergency surgery which was a last ditch effort to save his life.
Jeff, his wife Paula, my wife Mariposa and I were close friends for 20 years. Our friendship was bonded almost immediately because of our love for music. We both played guitar and sang, only he was the real musician with a talent for composing, arranging and writing that could have been professional had he chosen that path. But he chose another, the path of service to others through his faith in Jesus Christ.
He taught English and Shakespeare at Cabrillo College for over 30 years. He was a writer and poet, having published two books of poetry. He was only ordained as an Anglican minister 15 years ago. His life was a beautiful blending of literature, the arts, passion for living, spiritual understanding, compassion for others, love for family and wisdom. He more than anyone I knew followed Jesus' two commandments to love God, and love one another. He would never say that it was him, i.e. Jeff, who could do this. He would say, "I'm too selfish." Rather, it was the power of the love of Christ through the Holy Spirit that empowered Jeff to love others. He would probably let me say that about him.
He pastored a small congregation for 10 years. My wife and I jumped at the chance to join him when he asked if we would serve in the music ministry. It was always a privilege to play and sing with him...just to be around him. I know that being with him made me a better person in every way, from the sharpening of my intellect, to my understanding of literature and Holy scripture, to my enhanced grasp of music, harmonies, singing and the craft of guitar playing, and to the important lifelong work of learning patience and practicing tolerance and true loving empathy for all people regardless of status, position or life situation.
At Jeff's memorial service today there will be lot's of stuff going on that he would have liked. A confirmed "folkie," lots of us will be presenting songs as individuals and sing-alongs. (If there was one thing Jeff liked it was "inclusiveness." Before that word was current Jeff would have just said "hootenanny.") Mariposa and I will be playing Julie Miller's All My Tears (Be Washed Away), which is a song that almost perfectly represents our faith lyrically. I hope the arrangement that I've made portrays emotionally how much we will miss our friend, leader and pastor.
Farewell for now my Brother, I will join you on the other side when my time is come.