The Rev. Blair Monie was an Advocate worship columnist for more than a decade, from 2003 until he retired from Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in 2014. He wrote 133 columns during that stretch, and you can read all of them in our website archives.
Monie, 70, died in late October after more than a year of battling pancreatic cancer. His memorial will take place on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 2 p.m. in the Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church sanctuary.
After Monie received his diagnosis in summer 2017, he wrote a message to friends in his Caring Bridge journal, which he allowed us to share.
“Perhaps the biggest surprise in these early stages of my journey with cancer is that I’m experiencing an unexpected level of happiness — even joy,” he wrote. “This is not to dismiss the concern of those close to me, those who love me; that’s the downside, which is real. But maybe what I’m feeling is the opportunity to revisit that ‘firefly dusk of summer,’ to live fully in the present moment, and to live unhurried.”
Anyone who knew Blair Monie also knew that he carried joy and love with him and spread it to anyone and everyone he could. The past year of his Facebook timeline is peppered with silly photos and punny jokes. Laughter was part of his persona, but he was also quite serious about the high calling of faith, whether in serving the poor or leaving a legacy.
A column that Monie wrote a few months before his retirement focused on death, and the reality that most of us die with “half our music still in us” and “a thousand stories still inside.” He told the story of Puccini, who wrote a number of famous operas:
“In 1922 he suddenly was stricken with cancer while he was working on ‘Turandot.’ Many think it was his best work, but he was not able to finish it before the cancer took his life. As he was dying, he begged his students to finish the work for him.
“After his death Puccini’s students studied his new work carefully and eventually were able to complete it. ‘Turandot’ was performed for the first time at La Scala, in Milan. It was directed by Arturo Toscanini, who was one of Puccini’s brightest students.
“Everything went beautifully until they reached the point where Puccini had been forced to lay down his pen. Tears ran down the director’s face as he stopped the music. Putting down his baton, Toscanini turned to the audience and said, ‘Thus far the Master wrote, ere he died.’
“A vast silence filled the opera house. Then, Toscanini picked up his baton and smiling through his tears said, ‘But, the disciples finished the work.’ When the performance at last reached its conclusion, the audience rose as one to applaud the Master — and the disciples who continued his work.
“We will die with a lot of good songs that have yet to be sung, and a lot of good stories still in us. There’s more than a lifetime of things to do. But I take comfort in knowing that there will be others to pick up the baton.”
No doubt Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church will be filled to the rafters on Saturday, Nov. 17, with friends and mentees celebrating Blair Monie’s legacy and willing to pick up his baton.
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