And, I never imagined a day when I would. But, it is true – my friend, Luke Garrett – The Singer – passed away suddenly last Friday night. At the time of this writing, we are three days from a memorial service where friends and family will gather to honor this one whose voice transfixed everyone who heard it.
I don’t know where to begin to express the impact of this man on my life. He wandered into my choir room years ago and slowly became my partner in telling the Gospel through song. I have no way to count them, but if I could, the songs we shared together would number beyond 200.
We even liked three or four of them.
It started with this one — we had gone to lunch as we were still just getting to know each other. After we ate, we went back to his home in Jackson, Mississippi and he said something like this, “I hear you write songs. Play me one of them.”
At that point, I had written about five in my life. I sang one or two of them for him and then shared one I had just written that no one had heard yet. When I finished, I turned around to find him in tears. “I’m going to record that one,” he said. I didn’t believe him.
We quickly wrote out the chords and the lyrics as I taught the song to him. And that very weekend, he started singing, “Playing Games at the Foot of the Cross.”
At some point, he thought it would be a good idea for us to write something together. That brought, “The Glory of God” and a few more. “It’s Still The Cross” arrived sometime after that. Then came musicals, commissioned songs, and goofy ones. Chris Machen was a big part of many of those moments.
Our favorite that we only sang for each other was about Krispy Kreme donuts titled “Sugar’s Gonna Flow.” Come to think of it, that might actually have been our best one. It was pretty “sweet.” We would laugh our heads off when we sang it.
He had a way of being part of our lives. He was in our family weddings and celebrations. He even showed up the day we moved to Franklin, TN. He actually looked around town until he saw a moving van and recognized our cars. He slipped into the house, dodging the movers, and started playing our piano. When we heard it, we thought it was our oldest son – but when we ran in to tell Lee to get off the piano and back to work, there sat Luke with a big goofy grin on his face.
I could go on and on. And, for the last few days, I’ve heard your stories too and discovered the Harlands weren’t the only ones he made feel special. It seems everyone who knew him loved, “The Singer.”
No one – and I mean NO ONE – could deliver a song like Luke Garrett. He didn’t just hand you the lyric and melody… he handed you his heart every time he sang.
He was my best friend. He believed in me when I didn’t see it for myself. I’m going to miss him beyond words.
The song we wrote together that meant the most to both of us ends like this, “It is enough for me, for Christ alone to be – all I have lived for.”
And that’s what Luke did – live for Christ alone. He was The Singer. He was my friend.
See you in a little while, Luke.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.