One person's thoughts may change the world
John Arthur Small passed away November 29, 2012. My mother called and told me. I paused for a minute, taken back at the momentous message of his passing when the words were spoken to me. Over a year ago, my mother told me that his daughter, Gloria was taking care of him in Texas, he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease when he left Michigan. But, my mother also told me that he was recovering, was receiving better care while in Texas and that she had spoken to him and that he was in his right mind again. I was happy to have heard that. She then told me,”You should call or write him, he would be happy to hear from you”. I paused. What she just said touched a place that no one knows. She reached into the inner part of my soul, and said something to me that I have an inherent fear of, reaching out to those in their twilight years when they are just a shadow of their former self. When my Uncle Charles died, I had to fight my urge not to go see him, I didn’t want to my image of him tarnished. When his wife Sadie died, I struggled again, not wanting to see such a glowing woman in the dimming of her years. Each time, it was my son Joseph that summoned the courage to fight my fear and face the truth.
It’s hard for me to see someone of whom I thought of in greatness succumb to inevitable age . John Small was great in my eyes, a champion, one to aspire to be like. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had such a great example of a father, and such a great spiritual leader in Dr. Massey, John Small could have been one that I would have been inspired emulate. As easy as it sounds, that a hard thing to do, emulate someone. I have learned through the years you cannot emulate anyone. The times that they grew up in, their influences, the things that have shaped their inner soul cannot be duplicated. So trying to be like them is futile. I tried to be like my father at one time, and I failed, miserably. You can only emulate a piece of them, a sliver, you cannot be like them, your influences and your time in space is totally different from what they were influenced by. John Small was a rare commodity as Dr. Massey said so poignantly during his eulogy. John Small was a spiritual warrior, in voice.
Gone are the days that his voice reverberated off the walls of the old Metropolitan Church of God on Joy road. Gone are the day of his resonant sound off the walls and windows of the Metropolitan Church of God on Schaefer Hwy. Gone are the days I would sit in awe of his sound, and filled with the spirit of his message in voice. But the impression of his voice and the spirit of the soul will live within me and many other, and only by the mercy of God was I given the opportunity to hear and experience him.
Dr. Massey is a study within himself. I study Dr. Massey every chance I get to hear him speak. His inflections, he words, his subtle nuisances, even his sense of humor. He was able to find funny line and whispered it to my mother as I walked her up to the podium and handed her off to him. He is man full of emotion yet has learned to temper it in his vast knowledge of human linguistics and able to communicate it to all who is listening, whether it is to the seasoned Christian, or a newly saved individual. I saw an emotional pause within him, taken back by the moment when John Small’s casket was closed for the last time. He frowned, and I frowned with him. It was the same pause he made when speaking over my father’s casket for the last time while it was being lowered into the grave 39 year ago. Dr. Massey loved John Small, and, so dd I as well as my family.
My mother goes way back with him, as she pointed out during your memorial to him. She spoke of their times as vibrate young people, growing up near each other and going to church. She spoke of John meeting his future wife at her parent’s home, and the wonderful children they raised together. They raised 6 children, all of which are contemporaries of my siblings and myself. John Jr was one year older than my brother Henry, they grew up together, and in what was deemed a radical moved at the time, moved back to Israel as a black Jew. My mother told me how troubled his parent were about it, but when he came back to speak at the church in the mid 70’s, his cause resonated with me. He spoke with conviction and passion that I marveled at the time, and I sat and talked with him at the home going dinner, he is still an amazing figure to me.
Earl, always was the handsome son, and I believe has the gift of his father’s voice, and perhaps never taking full advantage of it, was also a contemporary of my brother. Broad shouldered, tall, and a demeanor similar of his father’s, Earl make you feel warm with his gentle yet commanding soul.
Gloria and Mary are contemporaries of my sister Yvonne. Gloria a brilliant lawyer, living now in Texas, took her father in to care for when he was incapable of doing so no more, while Mary tall and statuette, followed in the footsteps of her mother in being an educator. Mary also taught Sunday school, along with my mother and sister. Stephen, older than I but younger than my sister, is also handsome, and always had a bright smile. Finally, there was Mark who is my contemporary, my roommate on all the church youth conventions we use to attend together, Chicago, Washington, Kansas City, New Orleans, and other places. What memories we shared on those long bus trips meeting fellow Christian from around the country. So, here is my letter to you John Arthur Small, my dear cousin:
I have recently spoke to my mother, and she has told me of your good fortune of getting better treatment since you have moved to Texas with Gloria. My heart was warmed by the good news, I’m very glad that God has put you in a place for you to receive the proper attention you need to enjoy your life amongst loved ones. Although you may not know this, I have really, really appreciated you over the years. Not for anything special, but for you presence, your kindness and attention you have always given to me from when I was a small child. For being a relative, and knowing my parents for such a long time. For marrying you wife Delores your better half, she always had beautiful smile for me. For you to have such wonderful children, and each of my siblings as well as myself, being graced by having such warm and wonderful cousins. So in essence, I’m thanking you for just being you, a responsible man who raise a wonderful family, and example in words, deeds, and in song.
I don’t have to remind you of your voice, but, just to tell you how special it was for me to hear you sing. The power of your ministry of music, its Ministry of God, and the lives and souls it has touched, and even saved. It touched me every time I heard you sing, and although your voice may have fallen silent, your voice will resonate in every individual who has every heard it.
In closing I want to thank you, for all the things above, but most of all, for just being you, the Great John Small. I love you and your family dearly. Be well dear cousin….
John Arthur Small passed away in the same month, on the same day and had his home going service 39 years apart from my father’s….