Princeton Gratitudes -- David Weadon, of blessed memory
This piece began as a commemorative one, since 27 years ago today is the day David Weadon died. He was a beloved mentor, an inexplicable companion showing me spiritual-connection without words, the primacy of deep feeling in music. I was drawn to him, then interwoven with him in a musical “moment” during an Elijah oratorio performance, November 11, 1993. His artistry had touched something deeply within me. Something I couldn’t access, it seemed, in any other way but through singing in his choirs. Today, I smile with recognition, another ‘come full circle’ moment with this mentor, it would seem.
Weadon the man was a gay prima donna NYC organist, though a southern boy–North Carolina, if I recall. Gay was never spoken aloud in his presence at Princeton. He had a longterm partner, also named David, whom none of us in the Seminary Choir or the Touring Choir ever met. At least until a small ensemble of us went to Weadon’s hospice bedside to sing to him, December 1995. He’d contracted HIV years before, navigated it in the late 1980’s into early 90’s with meds, then visibly declined due to AIDS over months the fall of 1995. He died, age 39.
His death hit me hard upon return to campus at the end of January 1996. No one had told us he had died, for weeks. My senior thesis became all about music and spiritual transformation. It touched the sadness in me somehow.
One spring Friday evening that final spring semester, I was working on my senior thesis. I had received several social invitations, but had declined all, for some sense of sacred purpose. I was in my room, focused on the stack of library books before me, Music and the Church by David B. Pass among them.
It stunned me to tears.
Colossians 3:12ff, which is a fairly obvious scriptural text on music (given in full below). The opening words I’d never noticed? Ones I had had to sing every Sunday while watching this man I loved decline before our very eyes. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…be thankful.” It was that last imperative that felt impossible. Be thankful. While a man I loved deeply was dying, whose death was unspoken for weeks? I wept, stopping only when the energy in the room seemed to grow charged.
It felt I was being shown something: a scriptural ‘home’ for my entire thesis. It had everything–dwelling, for indwelling the Spirit; singing to God; much more....” It truly felt like a Visitation, which freaked me out.
So I did the earthiest thing I could think of, that would offend any genteel southern boy: I farted.
Then I laughed aloud.
Or perhaps we laughed.
Today, I’m struck by new (to me) words in the text: an entire middle section on forgiveness. Right as I’m diving into Sacred Bewilderment into Forgiving the Divine… Hello again David?
No need for me to fart this morning...I'm more seasoned in Mystery than I was then.
I still think we're both laughing.
The whole text, Colossian 3:12-18, though I’m content with verses 12-16 most days:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, clothes yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
[v. 17-18: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.]