A heavy heart and tears that flow,
A hand that strummed moves no more,
But deep inside you hear my song,
Gentle, soft, sweet, but strong,
I gave the world the best of me,
And what just happened, had to be,
No tears, sorrow, grief or pain,
Should mark the moments of my fame.
“This is the Time” to rest awhile,
Before I start the second mile,
The voyage is something I hold dear,
Reach out and touch, I’m always near.
Written by Dr. Mamie Smith
It was a morning of deep contemplation and thought . . . my eyes soaked up the words on the page that fervently struck a nerve, recalled memories that made me pause . . . ponder, and seek a more profound understanding of truth and life. It had only been a week ago that my study of the Bible had urged me to look at “life” as waters of purification of thought, thoughts that would dissolve all sense of death, destruction and sensuality. I was admonished to “take of the water of life freely”– that this life is a gift from God, given impartially, equally, and with all of the graces of Spirit. Now, this week’s lesson was describing “truth” as the light of spiritual understanding–understanding that lifted one above all sense of mortality and darkness. As I struggled to understand these revelations that the prophets who had lived so long ago understood, the sharp ringing of the phone broke my concentration.
“Hi Mamie, This is J__________. I am calling to let you know Herb Metoyer passed away today.” Kind words were spoken, condolences made, but the words, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” struggled with “Herb is gone.” As the two concepts played ping pong in the forefront of my consciousness, I knew one would emerge as truth. But . . . what was this truth that needed to be seen in order to make me free?
The Lesson recounted a story in which a man pleaded with Jesus to come to his house and save his child from dying, but Jesus, recognizing that life is not in a physical body, challenged the man to believe his child lived, even before his eyes told him she lived. What did the man do? He believed the words that Jesus had spoken to him, and began the journey back home. Before he reached home, his servants met him and told him that his daughter had recovered. Upon asking the time she had begun to recover, the man realized that it was about the same time his faith in the words of Jesus had reached fruition. How does this relate to my friend Herb?
Herb’s human life spanned many years–in sickness and in health, he made an impact on the world. That impact is not measured by the tall, handsome, frame that moved him about, but by the words of wisdom he spoke, the melodies that touched our souls, and the warm words that flowed from his spirit. Who was Herb Metoyer?
He was a husband, father, singer-songwriter, author and military man. I met him about five years ago as a member of The Detroit Writers Guild–a non-profit organization that stressed excellence in writing and publishing–with Herb as one of its founders. At that time, he had already published 2 novels, 19 books, edited the historical book Paradise Valley Days and was writing his last literary contribution: Small Fires in the Sun. Earlier in his career, Herb was known for writing the song, Mother, Fools Are a Long Time Comin’. As a newly published author with minimal writing skills, I picked-up pointers during our meetings that sharpened my ability to write creatively as well as factually.
Herb was a singer-songwriter of folk music with a tinge of gospel and blues running through it, giving him his own distinct sound. He performed at many venues, and was a fixture on the Detroit music scene.
Born in Oakdale, Louisiana, as a child, Metoyer flew model planes, played the trumpet, strummed the guitar and graduated from high school at the tender age of 15. If you think that was a feat . . . how about graduating from Southern University at 19? After graduation, he joined the military, became a helicopter and career officer. To complete his life accomplishments, Herb married the lovely Gerri, fathered four sons and two daughters.
As I end this tribute to Herb, my thoughts race back to the last time I saw him. It was during an annual musical event at the Music Hall in Detroit, where he demonstrated the life and truth I mentioned at the beginning of this article–a life of determination, persistence, perseverance and long-suffering. Even though he was wearing a breathing apparatus as an aid, he sang and strummed his guitar with skill and courage.
As a military wife understanding a soldier’s salute, I raise my hand to you Herb Metoyer, with the utmost respect and admiration! You are unquestionably a spiritual warrior . . . and the unwavering, soft-spoken gentleman I knew as . . . “the man with the guitar.”