Four years ago today, gospel music lost one of its greatest pianists. But it also lost a great soldier and hero of the faith. Although he was very ill with cancer for a good part of his life, Roger somehow kept his smile, his humor, and his courage about him. He was an inspiration to many, and his life still continues to touch other lives, including mine. It has “become the light that leads us to the road we each must find.”
One of Roger’s most poignant songs is “Don’t Be Afraid.” I found a piece Roger wrote for the Singing News in which he described how Satan reminded him of that song when he was suffering from depression under cancer treatment. This is what he wrote:
He didn’t strike me physically. That had been accomplished for him by the chemo. He struck a more critical part of my being. My joy. My confidence..my hope. Every thought I turned toward heaven bounced back to me as if it were made of brass. Every time I tried to “look on the bright side”, I ended up imagining a very dark future. Then he threw his most effective dart at me. Doubt. “You call yourself a Christian,” he said, “What a hypocrite!” “You wrote, “Don’t Be Afraid” and yet you are more afraid now than you’ve ever been.” “You wrote about Joy and yet now you are filled with despair.” “So much for your faith, Mr. Gospel Singer.”
Like many people, I miss Roger, and I wish he could still be with us today. But I’d like to think that even though we aren’t with him yet, he’s looking down on all of us and cheering us on.
Roger, I never met you, and I never knew you. But one day I will. When the fever of life is over and our work is done, we will all rest with you…upon the mountain.