You won’t find her name in any books. There’s no monument to her name.
But she was important to me.
Audrey Heilmann was my old church’s organist and choir director for over 40 years. She directed me in my first choir. She was the person to put me in front of a mic when I had no idea what to do.
She taught hundreds of kids how to play the piano over the years.
I was no piano protege, but she was my teacher nonetheless. From the first day I sat in on my first choir session, she was teaching me.
She was gentle, kind, firm, devoted and she loved music, especially choral music. She loved the sound of all of the voices coming together.
She loved the sound the organ made when it was tuned and played right.
Nobody could play it the way she could.
Every Sunday, she would sit in the front pew, until it was time to play the piano for a solo or the organ for the choir.
Every Sunday, she walked across that creaky sanctuary floor in her black shoes that somehow made no noise. Wearing one of her dress suits, with her silvery white hair, perfectly pinned and frozen in time.
And any Sunday she would ask, I would sing.
All she had to do was ask.
Anyone else in the world, I would shrink away from that situation, but for Audrey, anything.
Then she got older.
Then I got married.
Then she got sick.
Then I moved away.
Then she stopped coming.
I’d hear about her every now and then.
The last time I saw her, I hugged her and I couldn’t get over how frail she felt. Over 60 years at an organ, after marriage, children, a world war and everything and she’d never been frail to me until that very moment.
Two days ago, I got the call.
It was only a matter of time, really.
That still doesn’t mean I was ready for it.