Randy and I lost one of our dearest and closest friends recently. It happened suddenly and without warning. We are still dealing with the shock and only now are coming to realize he really is gone.

S. Myers McAllister Jr., our friend, choir director and head schoolmaster at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church and School in Houma, died suddenly in his home a few nights ago. Never again will we see his incredible smile or sparkling blue eyes or hear his voice.

"Mr. M," as everyone called him, was a person who not only brightened our little corner of the world but left a path of light and kindness wherever he went. He personified the definition of "a life of service." His whole life was dedicated to serving those around him -- schoolchildren, choir members, church family and those in the community.

Singing in the choir the first Sunday after he passed was almost more than I could bear. I kept hearing his voice and seeing his direction even though he wasn't there. He would have been proud of the way his choir carried on in his absence. I kept looking up expecting to see his smile or a thumbs up to show us we'd sung something especially well. It's going to take a long time before the choir will feel like choir again. Losing his direction and voice is sure a huge blow to our small group of dedicated vocalists.

Father Craig Dalferes, the church's pastor, gave a wonderful talk the first Sunday our choir sang without Mr. M directing. He said Mr. M's death had left a void in all our hearts that would take a long time to heal.

Jennifer Dalferes, the pastor's wife and one of the teachers at St. Matthew's School, worked closely with Mr. M every day. She said the news was devastating to all the teachers and students. But she said that even with heavy hearts they will work hard going forward to carry on his loving spirit and the programs that he had implemented.

David West, St. Matthew's music director, told me our choir will go forward with a new mission to keep Mr. M's spirit alive in our music. Mr. M loved jazz and American spirituals. One of the last things he did was to plan our annual Jazz Mass. David said we are going to sing the Mass exactly as Mr. M planned it even though he won't be there to direct us.

I'm glad we're going to keep singing the music he loved so well. When I sing "Wade in the Water" or "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" or "When the Saints Go Marching In," I'll close my eyes and listen for Mr. M. I know he'll be singing with us and swaying back and forth just like he always did.

He picked a beautiful song for us to sing on Jazz Sunday, something we've never sung before by Duke Ellington called "Come Sunday." The words were almost prophetic about his death, almost as if he was talking to us through the music. The words go like this:

Lord, dear Lord above, God Almighty,

God of Love, Please look down and see my people through.

I believe that God put sun and moon up in the sky.

I don't mind the gray skies

'cause they're just clouds passing by.

Heaven is a goodness time. A brighter light on high.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you,

And have a brighter bye and bye.

Lord, dear Lord above, God Almighty,

God of Love, Please look down and see my people through.

-- Donna Knight is a freelance writer and artist in Houma and a member of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. Email her at donnabknight@yahoo.com.