Songs for Goodbye

I think this summer will be remembered as a summer of goodbye.  My pastor and his family moved away this month, and he is now serving a different congregation in a different state.  The relocation process for a pastor in our church body is necessarily tedious.  It seems like weeks of the summer have been spent just saying goodbye.


There have been other summers of goodbye.  The summers of my late high school years come to mind.  First, at the end of our junior year, we said goodbye to all the seniors.  This was the summer of our school choir trip to Disney.  I’m not even a Disney fan, but it is admittedly a great place for teenage memories and songs for goodbye.  Our actual choir performance was rained out, but we managed to sing anyway.  We sang “The Rose,” with its wonderful acapella harmonies while sitting in the hot tub, and we sang “Remember When the Music”  while gathered in the hotel lobby.

The summer of our senior year came;  it was our turn to spread our wings and to say goodbye.  At our high school graduation ceremony, we sang the popular “Friends are Friends Forever” by Michael W. Smith.  I think I accompanied on the piano.  We gave hugs.  We exchanged pictures and cassette tapes.  Some of us might have cried, (I didn’t), but no one was really sad.  It was just so exciting to be going out into the world.  We were full of hopes and dreams, and our youthful idealism kept us from being afraid.  I wonder, do Christian teenagers still bring out Michael W. Smith, when it’s time to say goodbye?

Now, in our middle age, the goodbyes are harder.  Over two decades have passed, and we are not the same people we once were.  The youthful idealism is gone, replaced, hopefully, with some degree of wisdom, but also tempered with a good dose of the struggles of adult life.  Hope is still a commodity, but it is harder to find.  Courage is harder to muster.  And it is harder to let go of something that seems so good.



I came to know my pastor three years and some months ago.  During the season just after Easter, I found myself in the pews of his church.  I had been in a period of wandering from church to church, looking for a home, feeling not unlike the proverbial lost sheep.  That Saturday evening I sat towards the back of the church with my (then) two boys.  It was Good Shepherd weekend.  We sang the hymns based on Psalm 23, we listened to the readings and the sermon, and I knew I had found my shepherd.

During the three years that followed, we moved from the back of the church to the front.  We added another boy to our church pew, and had him baptized.  Nearly every weekend we came and were blessed by the ministrations of our pastor.  He loved my children and encouraged them.  He taught me, fed me, forgave me, and preached to the fears of my soul.  And when I recently traveled through the valley of anxiety and depression, he was there to walk with me.

How to say goodbye to this man?  Where was the song for this difficult farewell?  This time around, Michael W. Smith wasn’t cutting it.

This time around I turned to Mozart, diligently practicing the first movement of Sonata 11.  During the depths of my springtime depression, my pastor had sent me a link to this sonata, suggesting, perhaps, that it might be soothing to my soul.  Little did he know that I had the sheet music in my attic.


When the news was official that my pastor was leaving, I took my sheet music to the sanctuary.  The church is not air conditioned, and the piano light was so hot, but still I had to play.  I thought about the message Dr. Suzuki had found in the music of Mozart:

All right.  Life is sad. But if there is love, see how beautiful life can be.  The sad life that we all must live – let us go along together and comfort one another.


I played, the notes of the piano echoing through the empty sanctuary.  Sometimes I played at night, with only a few lights in the sanctuary, and only the sound of the cicadas outside.  Sometimes I played in the silence of the afternoon with the sunlight filtering through the stained glass windows.  Then one rainy morning I played, and in the background there was the telling sound of packing tape.

I stopped in the office on the way out.  “Will you let me play for you before you leave?” I asked.

“I won’t leave town without hearing Sonata 11,” he replied.

Five days before his departure, I played Sonata 11, as my pastor sat listening.  I wasn’t sad.  I was nervous, and by the end I couldn’t play the fast parts very well, but mostly I was just happy that I could play for him.  It was my song for goodbye.

And that was supposed to be the end of this post.  I would to take my boys to the Saturday service and say my final farewell, and that would be it.  The church picnic was to be on Sunday, but I’m not much for church picnics anyway.  I didn’t think I wanted to go.


But then another song, and an invitation:  The closing hymn on Sunday was to be “God Be with You Till We Meet Again.”  The organist wanted to do something a little special.  He would play the organ, and he asked me to play the piano.  I was so touched that he would ask.  Here was another person, perhaps feeling a bit like I did, and he was asking me to join with him in another song for goodbye.

I took my boys to the Sunday service.  The older two watched the toddler so I could play the piano.  I was glad I was not singing because it is much easier to play without crying.  “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” is blessedly easier than Sonata 11.   I played loudly, and it felt good.  I was sad, but I was not alone.  I was joined by the organist and by all the other members of our church home.  Together, we were singing and playing our final song for goodbye.

Afterwards we stayed for the picnic.  It was fun!  Yes, it was bittersweet, but I was glad to be in the company of our church family.  The picnic wound down, and I lingered for one last hug before pushing my toddler home in the stroller.


God be with you till we meet again….with a shepherd’s care enfold you.

Goodbye, dear shepherd.  We will miss you.

May our Good Shepherd guard and keep you and your family until we meet again.


  1. Dr. Shinichi Suzuki quote from Nurtured by Love, Alfred Publishing Company, 1983.
  2. No, we did not sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when we sang “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” but our organist recommended the recording to which I linked.
  3. This may be the first and last time I post one of my own recordings on YouTube.  My patient and talented husband, John David Duke Jr, was my recording technician.  All of the pictures were taken at Immanuel Lutheran Church.  Our garden volunteers have been busy this summer!



Easter Sunday: Resurrection, Music, and Psychology

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.  John 20:11-18

The story of Mary Magdalene is comforting to me.  She was tormented by all those demons, and it must have made her crazy, but Jesus loved her in spite of all that.  He loved her enough to rescue her from the demons, to die for her sins, and then, like icing on the cake, to appear to her personally after His resurrection.  I am tormented sometimes by anxiety and depression, and sometimes it makes me crazy, but Jesus loves me too.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Matthew 5:8

I don’t really think that “crazy” and “pure in heart” are the same thing, but through His death and resurrection, Jesus purifies my heart, and some day I will see Him face to face just like Mary Magdalene.

I’m sure Mary Magdalene was in my subconscious as Easter approached.  She was there along with many other thoughts, some of which make me very anxious each time a holiday approaches.

I attended both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services and kept my composure, which I view as a small victory. Easter Sunday arrived, and I was anxious, but still everything was pretty much under control.  Thomas and Jack were playing for the service, and that always makes a mother a little nervous, but they were well prepared, and there was really no reason for concern.

We had prepared two pieces of pre-service music.  Jack was to go first, and Thomas was to follow.  The instruments were all tuned, and the boys were in their places.  About thirty seconds before Jack was to begin, another young boy entered the sanctuary.  He was high on the excitement of life, chocolate, the Easter Bunny, and perhaps even the Tooth Fairy, and he came running across the front of the church smack dab into Jack’s cello.  The cello fell with a clatter onto its bridge.  In an instant, my carefully guarded composure disappeared.

The tension that was simmering under the surface welled up into panic.  I started to scold.  “Jack!  I told you to hold onto your cello!”

“Deborah.”  I turned around, and there was my pastor all in his white alb and chasuble.  He said something to the effect that it wasn’t Jack’s fault.  Thomas re-tuned the cello, and really the worst of the outcome was that we started five minutes late.  Still, I was shaken.  By the time we got home from the service, I was exhausted.

Wednesday afternoon found me in my  therapist’s office for a regularly scheduled appointment.  I recounted the events of Easter Sunday, and I mused that it was really a bit of a relief to panic out in the open.  If the cello had not clattered to the floor, no one would have seen my anxiety simmering below the surface.  I would have been left to wrestle with it alone.  Instead it was witnessed by someone who cared.

I told my therapist how comforting it was to hear my name.  Thinking back on the service I cannot even recall the Gospel account. (It wasn’t from John).  What I remember the most is the sound of my name being spoken.  “It’s really kind of silly,” I admitted.

“No, it’s not silly,” my therapist countered.  He explained that what I had experienced was called anchoring.  When I was upset before church, the sound of my name spoken in a caring manner served to anchor me.

Mary was upset in the garden on that first Easter morning.  Then she heard Jesus speak her name, “Mary.”  In that moment, I think she must have felt anchored.  I know John wrote the account as a witness to the resurrection and not as a psychology lesson, but really, who could anchor someone more than Jesus?

 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

Jesus has redeemed me, and through my baptism, He calls me by name.  I am anchored in my place as a child of God.  It is a true blessing when God sends people to care for me, but even when I am alone and tormented, I can rest secure in the knowledge of my baptism.  As Martin Luther states in his Large Catechism:

When our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.

My pastor is not always standing behind me, and my therapist will soon be retiring, but I am anchored in my baptism.  I have the promise of life and salvation, and that promise is always and forever.







Fourteen Days: 10/17-10/30



  • Managed to get a turn to hold Walter.
  • Used his newly refurbished video camera to capture footage of the partial solar eclipse.
  • Worked with Dad to record some violin and guitar Christmas arrangements.



  • Went to his first BSS Fiddle Club rehearsal and decided that he liked it.
  • Spent time holding, reading to, and playing with Walter.
  • Was very helpful when we took Walter on his first shopping trip to Wegmans.



  • Really ramped up his nursing efforts (leaving Mom with significantly less free time).
  • Seemed to be more alert, spending more and longer times awake.
  • Spent time looking in his mirror, lying on his back kicking, and lying on his tummy moving his head from side to side.
  • Marked the four week anniversary of his birth.

Musical Seasons

Here in Western New York, we are finally putting the 2013-2014 school year to rest.   To say we have a lot to look forward to in the coming seasons would be a bit of an understatement, but  before we move on, I wanted to share some of the musical highlights from this past year.




In October, Jack gave his Suzuki Cello Book One recital.




At Christmastime, the boys provided the pre-service music for the Sunday School Program at Immanuel Lutheran Church.  Then in February, we recorded Jack playing “Long, Long Ago.”  This was his audition piece for the Buffalo Suzuki Strings Lucinda Yang Memorial Scholarship.  He was selected as one of the recipients, and the scholarship will help fund his BSS Summer Workshop experience this summer.




The boys brought their instruments back to Immanuel for Easter.  Thomas played his Boccherini “Minuet” for pre-service music, and they both accompanied two hymns.  (I love their rendition of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.”  It is included at the end of Tom’s recital video.)  At the end of Easter week, Thomas played his Suzuki Violin Book Two recital.




I’m kind of cheating for this season, as mid-June in Buffalo is really still spring.  (Note the jackets and long pants!)  Never-the-less, the boys had two musical performances this month.  First, they played for the Twin Cities Community Outreach 25th Anniversary Dinner.  Then they also brought their instruments to play at the KidBiz Market.  Both times, the boys played before relative strangers, and both times they were well-received.  The guests at the TCCO dinner gave them a standing ovation, and the KidBiz crowd dropped quite a few dollars in the violin case.  I am glad that their musical efforts are being appreciated by the outside world.

We have only a few lessons left this summer.  In addition to lessons, Thomas just joined the BSS Fiddle Club, and he will continue to practice with them through the month of July.  Then Jack will be attending the BSS Summer Workshop for a week in August.  Before we know it, fall will be here, and what an exciting season that will be.  Perhaps the boys can learn some lullabies….

Now, if the “Duke Four Seasons” have whetted your musical appetite, here’s a link to the real deal:


Fourteen Days: 6/6-6/20



  • Took the lead in getting ready for KidBiz.  (See photo, above.)  On the day of the market, he did a great job playing his violin and talking with customers.
  • Played solo and with Jack for the Twin Cities Community Outreach 25th Anniversary Dinner.  He took charge of the performance, and exuded a lot of confidence, both for this event and for KidBiz.
  • Had a great hockey game with two assists and one shot on goal.
  • Continued to work on electronics projects.  In fact, this seemed to be a higher priority for him than computer time.



  • Partnered with Thomas for a successful day at KidBiz.  He helped with crayon production and selling, and he played his cello.
  • Acquired a new-to-him stuffed animal at KidBiz.  We think it is an Alaskan husky.  He named it Pouncer (because it pounces on people), and dramatic play ensued.
  • Played solo and with Thomas for the TCCO Anniversary Dinner.  It’s not everyday they get to play in front of the mayor of North Tonawanda.
  • Had three hockey games and scored his first goal of the season.
  • Stood in front of the computer listening to the music when Pandora brought up a song played by Yo-Yo Ma.  He also told the librarian, that yes, he would recommend that her nephew learn to play the cello.  (This from a boy who claims that cello is one of his least favorite things.)
  • Decided that “Mr. Aker” would be the good name for a character in a story.  We are encouraging him to pursue his writing ideas.

Nachmu Crayons

KidBiz 2013

KidBiz 2013

KidBiz is back!  The following is a re-post by Thomas:

My brother and I are starting a business called Nachmu Crayons.  Nachmu crayonsNachmu Crayons will be part of the KidBiz program.  KidBiz is a program where kids can sell things such as artwork, crafts, old toys, and stuff like that.  It is sponsored by Buffalo State College.  KidBiz will be on Saturday, June 14, from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the corner of Elmwood and Bidwell by the farmers’ market in Buffalo, New York.  Other kids will be selling things there too.

We will be selling recycled crayons shaped to be butterflies, ladybugs, frogs, hearts, and stars.  The prices are 3 for $2 or 75¢ each.  We will not only be selling crayons of different shapes, but we will also bring our musical instruments.  My brother, Jack, will play the cello, and I will play the violin.

a portion of our inventory

a portion of our inventory

We call the business Nachmu Crayons because my dad uses Nachmu (Nock-Moo) as a family nickname.  Nachmu means comfort in Hebrew.  You can read more about that here.

We would like to recycle more crayons!  If you have unwanted crayons, please think of recycling them with us.  Any crayons are fine even if they are broken.  We will melt the crayons and pour them into candy molds to give them their new shape.  We will give you a Nachmu Crayons coupon for your donation.  Future dates for Kidbiz are July 5 and August 2.  We hope to be selling crayons on those dates too!

melting the crayons

melting the crayons

Please send our mom an email if you would like to recycle crayons with us.  Her email address is deborah@nachmu.com.  Write “recycled crayons” in the subject header, and we will get back to you.  Thank you!


Seven Days: 5/3-5/8



  • Did more work in the Pokey Woods.
  • Played with Miss Klansee’s orchestra in the last rep class concert of the year.
  • Had a good conversation with Miss Klansee about the different sections of “Gavotte” by Martini.
  • Was his regular helpful self.



  • Helped clear sticks in the Pokey Woods.
  • Played “Minuet III” by Bach with all the correct bowings and shifts.  (It’s a tricky piece!)
  • Had two hockey practices in one day and worked hard for both of them.
  • Probably watched too many hockey videos.
  • Had a discussion about natural disasters and was relieved to learn that a tsunami cannot reach western New York.


A Post for the Twelfth Day of Christmas

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas.  The tree is coming down, the decorations are being stashed in the attic, and the music will soon be switched over to non-holiday fare.  In advance of all this end-of-Christmas activity, I’ve put together a little pictorial review of our holiday.  Some of the photos are mine, but many of them are David’s.

This Christmas . . . .

bedroomcurtainsI made curtains for our bedroom.

snowflakeornamentWe decorated our tree (after we finally got it).

roswellThe boys played with other Buffalo Suzuki Strings students at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.


jackcelloThey also played for the Sunday school program and Immanuel Lutheran Church.  Jack loved his harmony ending to                         “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

outsidehouseWe had plenty of snow and cold weather.

candlesWe baked cookies and ate dinner with friends.  We let the candles burn down as we talked long into the evening.

babyjesuslightWe heard again about our Savior born in Bethlehem, and we sang songs to worship Him.

newtonchristmasSanta brought us presents.  Newton was a bit perturbed.


jackjerseyThe boys were quite pleased.

bavarianinnWe went to Frankenmuth to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

tomsledGrandpa and David took the boys sledding.

jackcouch2We refurbished the loveseat.  Jack tested it out while reading large portions of the children’s Bible.

christmascheerWe listened to hours of Christmas music and ate copious amounts of good food.  We had a very Merry Christmas.

We hope you did too.


Summer Days

Our days are beginning to include more homeschool lessons, and our evening walks quite often require long sleeves, but before the season completely turns, I wanted to share some of summer’s goodness.  We’ve  enjoyed a season of  campfires and cookouts, beach days and berry picking, hiking and music making, ice cream and rainbows:

Letchworth State Park

at Letchworth State Park


at Woodlawn Beach

at Woodlawn Beach


at Awald Farms

at Awald Farms


at Letchworth State Park

at Letchworth State Park



Buffalo Suzuki Strings Summer Workshop


outside Dairy Queen

outside Dairy Queen


Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park

It has been a good summer, and it’s not quite over yet.


Last Week, 8

Last week Jack and I made an allergen-free chocolate pie for Father’s Day.  It had no eggs, no dairy, no nuts, no wheat, and it still tasted really good!  It was so good, in fact, that I didn’t have a chance to take a picture.  I did, however, find a picture of the first Father’s Day chocolate pie I ever made.  (It was not allergen-free, as that was not an issue back then.  This year was the first that I figured out an allergen-free chocolate pie so we’ve had to do with other desserts in the meantime.)


I also found a picture of the little creature who gave us an especial reason to celebrate Father’s Day those ten years ago:

Thomas Henry 038

Last week we also did a little homeschool plant cell biology.  Our model cell looked like this:


I finished all of our end-of-the-year homeschool paperwork.  On the way to the high school to turn it in, Jack and I stopped for a walk at the river.


We ended the week with a string recital and picnic.  It was held at the home of another Buffalo Suzuki Strings family.  Thomas and Jack played their “Long, Long Ago” duet with Miss Klansee playing a harmony part (which would technically make the song a trio).

long long ago edit

It was a very full week and a good one too.