Posted by: suek2001 | July 30, 2016

“..and heaven to gain..”

Some songs stick in my memory and connect me to time and place….Good Vibrations takes me back to when I was five years old and hearing it the first time as I was swimming in a kiddie pool…I heard MTA on an oldies program one Friday Night in 1987 and was hooked on The Kingston Trio for the rest of my life….

..and then there’s a John Denver song called “Alaska and Me”….It’s from an album called Higher Ground released in 1988..and the song was featured in a TV movie(unsold TV pilot actually)..a nice ditty…folky and charming but it wasm’t one I played a lot…there were other songs on that album that I played more…

…until the Fall of 1994..I had just started Bible College…met a man named Dennis Mertz….the story has been told here before:

So, I won’t go into too much detail……One aspect of his story that has been alluded to but I never really got into was how Dennis shaped my view of some music…He loved John Denver..and didn’t “get” the Kingston Trio….which broke my heart..but that’s okay…not everyone is perfect….

One day, he told me of his dream to be a missionary in Alaska…the spirit of the wilderness and the wide open spaces had an allure to him that was akin to how Duluth was a dream for me…

One night, I was doing homework and listening to John Denver when Alaska and Me came on..I stopped..and smiled…and thought “I have to tell him about this song”…

The next day, we were waiting at the bus stop in front of the City Center on Nicollett Mall in Downtown Minneapolis….and I told him that Alaska was featured in several John Denver songs…and one in particular “Alaska and Me”….

I am not a singer by nature and very rarely sang in public..but I had to sing it to him..and there was no one around….

So, I sang all the lyrics..and I watched Dennis smile..and weave in time to the beat…that smile…still gets me all these years later….and those eyes sparkled..hope.dreams….joy….all in his eyes….I swear I even saw a couple of tears….as I sang the lyrics to this John Denver song that I liked but never really paid attention to…

When I was done, he said, “That is me…that song is truly me”….so on that street corner, that song got him..and wouldn’t let go…

I would make him a mix tape of John Denver songs with Alaska and Me and others…and we would sing it to each other every now and then…..

It became his anthem…and after that, the song never sounded the same…

The day after he died, that song happened to come up on my Aunt Betsy’s car stereo….I wasn’t ready to hear it but for Dennis..we sang it at the top of our lungs……a week later, at his funeral, it played as they closed the casket…and the funeral began….and I looked around and all those who knew him were smiling.. that song fit him to a tee…

I hear it now…and  I still see him smiling..weaving and joyful on Nicollett Mall…and I will post it again today on Facebook…to celebrate his birthday….

He lived every day like the first or the last one……and here’s his song..


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