Tomorrow I have the privilege and honor of playing for a wedding. That, in itself, is not particularly remarkable or blog-worthy. I have, after all, played for dozens of weddings. The number might actually be closer to 100. Each one has featured a blushing bride, a nervous groom, smiling well-wishers and a pretty cake. What makes tomorrow unique is not that it’s a wedding, but who the groom is and what this wedding represents for him.
Steve and I joined First Baptist Church in Hartselle in July of 1973, when I was about five months pregnant with our first child. Earl and Irone Jacobs and their two daughters Patricia and Erlene moved to Hartselle the last weekend in September of 1973. They immediately joined First Baptist because Earl had been called to be the Minister of Music for the church. I went into labor with Laura about three weeks early, and she was born November 1. I understand that I was one of Brother Earl’s (we Baptists almost always refer to our ministers as “Brother”) first official ministerial hospital visits. What makes the visit unforgettable was that he very thoughtfully brought me some Babe Perfume when he visited that day, in honor of my brand new baby. 🙂 Remember this was in the early 70’s. Times were simpler, more innocent. No one conjured up innuendos. It was just a sweet gesture that brought a big smile to my face.
A couple of months later, Miss Evelyn Howell, who had been the long-time pianist at First Baptist, became very ill and subsequently died. Brother Earl knew I was a musician and asked me to fill in until Miss Evelyn could come back. I accepted. Miss Evelyn was never able to return, and Brother Earl and I ended up working together for the next 14 years. Every Wednesday night for choir rehearsal, twice on Sunday for services and for innumerable weddings, funerals, revivals and VBS opening worship times, Brother Earl and I were a team. Several organists came and went during those years, but we forged on with choir anthem after choir anthem and solos, duets, trios, quartets, cantatas and offertories of every description and genre.
One rehearsal that Brother Earl instituted with frazzled young mothers in mind was a weekly morning handbell practice. He had a babysitter lined up for our kiddoes, and we walked in to find fresh doughnuts and orange juice. Yes, we got around to ringing those bells at some point, but mostly we had a happy relaxed excuse to get together and laugh awhile. Our ringing skills were NOT legendary by any means. . . with the possible exception of the time he convinced us to play our way down Main Street on the back of a flatbed truck during the Christmas parade. Whoa.
Brother Earl’s wife Irone sang in the choir during those years and was always his partner in ministry. She had quite a few illnesses but kept going as well as she could. I played for both daughters’ weddings and taught Erlene piano lessons for several years. Suffice it to say that bonds of mutual admiration and respect were formed that have continued for over 44 years.
The last few years of Irone’s life were difficult with her serious health limitations that were extremely confining for both of them. When she died in December of 2016, they had been married for 65 years. Brother Earl was a role model for husbands everywhere in his devotion and commitment to Irone and to the vows they took in June of 1951.
Afterward, Brother Earl needed to get out and stay busy — understandably so. He accepted a position as an interim music minister for a small church in Morgan County and met Margaret Tatum. They developed a friendship that turned into love, and their’s is the wedding I will have the privilege of playing for tomorrow.
Brother Earl will be 87 on April 10th, and Margaret is 76. All of us who love Brother Earl (and I’m sure Margaret’s family and friends feel the same way) are praying that he and Margaret will be granted good years to travel, laugh, and savor this time in their lives together. Love at this stage of life couldn’t come to a nicer guy.
All the best to you and Margaret, Brother Earl.
1 Samuel 26: 23a – “May the Lord repay every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness . . . “
2 Chronicles 16:9a – “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”