I first met Jay just over fifteen years ago. We were chosen to take part in the Rodgers Memorial Theatre's production of Scrooge. I think Jay was cast as one of the Bob Cratchits--my memory's a little fuzzy about specific cast members from 2000. If he was Bob, it was a very appropriate part for Jay. Bob Cratchit is universally revered as the embodiment of the every man, the soul of Dicken's Christmas Carol.
Through the years Jay and I performed in many shows together, portrayed leads and characters, comic reliefs and ensembles. I knew when I was fortunate enough to be cast with Jay, there would be at least one person dedicated to doing his absolute best. I remember one production where Jay played one character--a side character--in one cast and the male lead in the other cast. Since this theatre double cast the show, all the rest of us got every other night off once the run began. It amazed me that Jay not only did every show, but had to remember completely different lines depending on which role he played. I shouldn't have been surprised--Jay pulled it off effortlessly. Totally professional, total class act, completely Jay.
One of the advantages (or disadvantages...) with social media is that we can keep up on our friends's lives without even connecting with them. A few years ago Jay informed us all of his health struggles. He presented--at least on social media--a strong front, no excuses, just let us know how it was. He's never sought pity, never asked "why me?" at least publicly. He's fought with class and honor.
It's been a while since I've seen a Facebook post from Jay. Now I see people posting to his Facebook page wishes of strength for his final test. I can tell from their words that Jay has had the same effect on them as they have on me. They love him and wish him and his family peace and comfort as Jay prepares for what we all will one day face.
At work today, there were only a few of us in the building and I thought about Christmas and all that comes with it--the preparations, making sure we're ready for the big day. I then checked out Bandcamp.com, a website where musicians can create a profile and share their talents. Jay has a page. He's also posted a Christmas song. I played it and all the great memories of my friend came back. You can check out the song: HERE.
I don't know how long we'll all be together on this earth, but today my friend game me a Christmas gift. I got to hear him sing his song. Merry Christmas, Jay, my friend. May God be with you, always.
* Photo used without permission from: http://jayalanhenderson.bandcamp.com/track/christmas-lullaby