Happy belated New Year! It’s my belief that you can make this comment until about the 15th of January without being too weird. And so, it’s my fervent wish that this year brings everyone only the best that life has to offer. That said, just what is the best that life has too offer? This is open to all kinds of speculation and is perhaps the oldest recorded subject known to man. It’s this question that has led peoples of all races and places to peruse the heavens and wonder what our place is among the vast cosmos.
I, like many of you, have searched for some meaning to the mysteries of life. I won’t go into my personal beliefs about the human connection to a higher power. That is a subject that can only bring divisiveness and worse to our relationships with each other. In the big picture, two things are certain, and those things are; life and death. This is irrefutable.
The title of today’s message is from a song that was written and recorded by the late Dan Fogelberg. According to Wikipedia, the song’s title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago” or “days gone by”. In his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language, Matthew Fitt uses the phrase “In the days of auld lang syne” as the equivalent of “Once upon a time.” “Once upon a time” and “in the good old days” are phrases that are heard regularly in bluegrass circles. Mr. Folgelberg recently succumbed to a horrible but frequently seen illness. But, his song and songs, though they are from one who has passed, live on. He, by extension, lives on. He didn’t have a huge list of big hits but the first time that I heard “Another Auld Land Syne” I “knew” Dan Folgelberg. Our connection was one that transcended time and distance. That connection was a reverence for the past and a hope for the future.
With all of this in mind, I prepare for a sad, yet joyous event that many members of the CBA family will be attending today. Today we will gather to memorialize one of our own. Today we will make a journey to Palo Alto, and once there we will listen to eulogies and many of us will offer our own words of remembrance about our good friend, Tom Tworek. Today we will sing songs that remind us of Tom. We’ll sings songs that Tom sang and we’ll play songs to bid Tom farewell. And, in doing this, Tom will live, if only in spirit.
This is perhaps one of the best things about being in this huge extended family that we call the CBA. In the same way that I say that I “knew” Dan Folgelberg, I’ve come to know many of my CBA family, and, I feel I can say, I knew Tom Tworek. We all come from different backgrounds and each have different stories to tell, but we all, somewhere along the line, caught the bluegrass bug. A strange bug to be sure, and one that affects everyone differently too. Some only get an itch, while others get a rash. Some of us get warm inside when we hear a bluegrass band and others can’t stop the fire in their shoes from making their feet move in time to the beat. Some of us are part time grassers and then some of us make time for life when we’re not riding on some kind of some kind of bluegrass train.
And where does the bluegrass train go? It goes to little cabins on a hill, and red dirt farms all across America. It goes to towns in the middle of hollows and bayous and cities sprung from nowhere. Along the way, people, good folks, young and old, climb aboard and tell their stories. These are stories of love and betrayal, pain and laughter, adversity and victory. These are our stories. And they are great songs. Why? Because, in the words of the late Bill Monroe, they’re “true“ songs. They are the songs of families, and people, and history, and they tell us about ourselves, and each other. And so, when I meet a bluegrass lover, I feel an immediate connection and joy because I “know” this person. We share a common interest and pine for the same things.
So today, we go to bid adieu to a true friend and compatriot of bluegrass. We’ll sing and try to keep “Amazing Grace” but, at times, it will be hard. We’ll look at photo slides and remember the man that took so many inspired pictures and asked for nothing but thanks when he would hand deliver them “post haste.” And the most wonderful thing of all is that we’ll meet some new people. People who were touched by Tom and the life that he lived. Perhaps we’ll become friends with these strangers. Perhaps they will be moved to become bluegrassers themselves. Today we will come together and enjoy the best thing that this life can offer: friends. It will be a bittersweet day and Tom will be there. In our minds’ eye, in our hearts, and forever more, Tom will be part of our “Auld Lang Syne“.