There are a few people who do not share my blood, nor my name, but who are settled permanently and firmly in my heart. Anyone who knows me well would know that Merlyn Schofield is one of these. More than half-my-life ago Merlyn stood on the stage of the new Farmington North Stake Center and sang a song for the stake talent night. We had just moved to Utah from PA. I had been talking to someone in the hall when a door opened and I could hear her angelic and compelling voice wafting through the doorway. Like a fishing line cast across the sea of audience she caught me and drew me in. The program had indicated that she had written the song, which blew me away and I must admit made me a tad jealous, so I made it a point to hunt her down and introduce myself, telling her how beautiful I thought her song was. She laughed and said "Oh Goodness, I didn't write that," her smile emitting an aura of confidence mixed with humility.
Next time we met was in my family room on Kensington Street. I had been asked to sing one of my tunes in church and since I lacked any confidence in my own voice I invited her over to learn the song to sing for me. She sat on my hearth, pulling one knee up into her chest, her head bowed as she listened. When I was finished she said, "How about if you sing the melody and I'll sing harmony?" And that is where music as I know it took the turn in the road that led to today. Merlyn was the voice that was not my mother, who said with all sincerity that I could do it...that I could say what I wanted to say musically as well as it needed to be said. She taught me that the microphone is a friend, not to be feared, and she made the melodies I wrote seem so much prettier than they really are. For many years Merlyn and I gigged and traveled and created and dreamed as a team. I called her the vocal chameleon, because she could make anyone sound so much better. Her solo voice is stunning, and she could have easily had a solo career. But she sings like she walks, with poise and grace and beauty, not upstaging anyone but not curling in either, and she is always happier walking beside someone. I am blessed to have had her by my side for nearly fifteen years. We made...oh, how many was it... at least 5 albums together. Took numerous trips to Nashville and LA and Boise. She cheered with every award or contract I received. She wept at the lyrics that moved me, and she laughed where I wanted people to laugh. She cradled my children, and nurtured the hundreds of kids who were lucky enough to have her as their teacher. She loves my family like her own, and I love hers.
A few years back, it feels so long ago, Merlyn decided to re-focus her attention and take a break from the rigors of gigging. If you are a musician you understand. People think you don't really work, you just do the "fun". But the reality of it is that equipment is a pain to lug around, finding strange locations in the days before map quest was a challenge, and the hours are long. You leave at 5:00 for a 7:00 gig, which actually ends up starting at 7:45 because they started the dinner late. When you're done you get to disassemble the sound system and lug it back out to the car, then unload it when you finally get home at midnight. "But you only sang for 40 minutes", they say, expecting that the meager payment is plenty for the sacrifice. Our working hours conflicted with the time she spent with her husband, Kevin, and she decided some things were...well...eternal. So that's when I also stopped singing, until I couldn't stand the silence any more and I started to go solo. I still ache to hear her voice beside mine.
Saturday morning Merlyn called.
"Merlyn!" I said, "how are you? How's Kevin?" Kevin had been in the hospital for a couple months, recovering from a serious brain infection that started with, perhaps, a scrape on his hand that was left untreated.
"Cori, I just wanted you to know that Kevin passed away this morning."
What do you say then? What works, in the Things Everybody Wishes They Knew How To Say book of quotations? I didn't know, and I still don't. But I do know that saying nothing is not an option. So instead we weep together.
The other day she called and asked if I would sing Give Me Jesus at Kevin's funeral on Saturday. Of course I will, though I wonder how I will get through it. If you ever see me singing at a funeral with my eyes closed you will know that I must not look into the eyes of the people I love sitting directly in front of me. It's only science, something having to do with chemistry and the making of tears and nasal drainage and the thickening of vocal chords. It's a hard thing, wanting the emotion to be true and sincere, but knowing that if you go too far the song won't come out and people won't hear it if you can't sing it. When my young nephew Clayton died, Merlyn stood beside me to sing at his funeral. Overcome with sorrow, my voice gave out. After a measure or two, Merlyn wrapped her arm around my shoulder and jumped from the harmony up to the melody, finishing the song for me. She is grace and kindness and gentleness personified.
Today I was in my car at the airport. I was waiting for my sister Sherry to arrive. While I waited I found a CD from a recording session with the song Give Me Jesus on it. We recently recorded it for the new Christmas CD I'm working on. So I put it in the player in the car and listened. That song gets to me every time. It is so simple and so pure and the fellows who play it with me play it with such tenderness it is like we are all four testifying through the song.
Sitting there in the drivers seat I listened to the last verse...
"And when I've come to die
"And when I've come to die
And when I've come to die
Oh, and when I've come to die
Give me Jesus."
As I listened to Michael Huff's lyrical piano, Dave Eskelsen's brilliant guitar, and Mark Robinette's deeply resonant bow drawing across the strings of his bass, I watched an unknown woman walking down the sidewalk toward my car. She had deep red hair and was pulling a suitcase behind her. As she looked up she obviously saw someone she loved, because a vibrant smile spread across her face and her pace hastened. As she passed my car I looked in my rear view mirror, watching her embrace what appeared to be her grown son. He threw his arms around her, and she dropped her bag, enveloping him in her kisses. Tears wove down the sides of my face, quickly running down my neck and into my blouse. In my mind I imagined Kevin and Pauline, his mom, her hands cupping his face as she found his eyes again. A mom and her only son reunited in that heaven place.
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus.
Farewell, friend and brother. Comfort and peace, dear Merlyn.
Kevin Larry Schofield 1955 ~ 2009 KAYSVILLE - Kevin Larry Schofield passed away Saturday, June 13, 2009, after a long illness. He was born April 23, 1955, in Ogden, Utah, the son of Carl Robert and Pauline Burningham Schofield. He married Merlyn Smith, January 5, 1978, in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple. Kevin realized his dream of starting and operating a labor union in 1998 - Utah Alliance of Government Employees. Throughout his career Kevin assisted countless members through difficult situations with compassion and grace. Kevin enjoyed spending time in the outdoors, especially riding Harleys with his friends. Kevin was a member of the LDS church and served honorably in all his callings. He especially loved his work with the youth of the church. He is survived by his wife Merlyn; his sister Taryn; and countless nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his dog Micky. To celebrate the life and memory of Kevin, funeral services will be held Saturday, June 20, 2009, at 11 a.m. at the Kaysville 17th Ward Chapel, 875 E. 200 N., Kaysville. Funeral directors, Lindquist's Kaysville Mortuary, 400 North Main. Donations on behalf of Kevin may be made to the Kevin Larry Schofield Memorial Fund at Barnes Bank, 33 S. Main St., Kaysville, UT 84037. Our family invites you to express a favorite memory of Kevin by sending e-mail condolences to the family at www.lindquistmortuary.com Interment, Kaysville City Cemetery.