a. life. symphony.

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Andrew kept a certain dark suit aside.  Yesterday, he dressed him in it.  He dressed my father in the suit, and in a particular shirt he had given him, an elegant tie, and the eternity cufflinks that my father loved.  Across my father’s legs, he laid the lap blanket I had woven for him.

Andrew put on Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and let it pound through the house.  My brother drove down, opened the door and entered the room as the chorus rose to it’s most joyful, Joyful.  There, in that room that had been home for the last five years, my father lay in peace.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it,  said Diane Ackerman. I want to have lived the width of it as well.  

My father lived the length and the width, the height and the breadth of this life, I want to say.  He lived every bright corridor and dark corner without bitterness or regret, but with a grateful spirit, with eyes that lit a room, with a presence that roared.  He lived with the music of his mind, making of it a symphony of gladness and joy.

And then, as we all are asked to do, he stepped aside.  In the quiet of his sleep, breath stopped.  Life went on.  He slipped out.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began;
love divine is reigning o’er us,
binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.

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William  Edward  Hull,  Jr.
May 28, 1930 – December 10, 2013 

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~ by Susan on 12/11/2013.

34 Responses to “a. life. symphony.”

  1. Susan, I will hold you near to my heart. Isn’t it ironic how closely joy and sorrow are related? Blessed be to your father and to your family. I will pray that the peace you have will be as rich as the peace your father is now experiencing. Beth Johnson

  2. Magnificent, Susan. In spirit you were there and saw it accurately, including your special hand-woven laprobe. Andrew was his usual divine self. It is NOT finished. He being dead, yet speaketh.

    Catherine B. Allen

    5025 Wendover Drive

    Birmingham Alabama 35223

    Phone: 1 205 956-5977

    catherineballen@bellsouth.net

  3. Thanks for sharing your journey with your dad these past few years-he leaves you with many rich memories to cherish

  4. Thank you, THANK YOU, Susan, for allowing us to be in the orchestra of life which your father directed so capably, and for sharing your critiques which helped us understand better the cycle of life. The mighty chorus is a bit louder and more joyous today. And we are the better for having been blessed with his extraordinary example of life lived to its fullest. God bless all of you, especially Andrew for his faithful and tender care.

  5. I broke down in sobs. Billy was my longest and dearest friend. We grew up together in Central Park, Birmingham There were 4 dear friends. I am the only one left. I visited with him on October 31 when I was back to attend an event at Birmingham-Southern College. We traded books we had authored and shared memories. Susan, your testimony and pictures were lovely and deeply meaningful. Can I write a memory for his service or other publication? I treasure his friendship, his life, and share his deep faith as a Christian. Newton Malony hnewtonm@yahoo.com

  6. Your father began as my boss, but by the time I retired, we were intellectual and spiritual friends. I admired him.

  7. Susan

    I have loved reading your postings and take inspiration from how you have found joy in the past years and celebrated your father so.

    Thank you for sharing. May you find peace in his passing.

    Madeleine McGee 843.708.3246 madeleinemcgee@me.com

  8. Dear Susan, Your pictures are wonderful, especially the one you made with your words. I am priviledged to have known him a bit through your lovely writing. Thank you. Love, Harriet

  9. Susan, I will hold you and your family in my heart and prayer. Isn’t it ironic how closely related joy and sorrow are in our lives? Blessed be your father. Blessed be you and your family. May the peace your father now embraces, embrace you. Beth Johnson

  10. Susan – I would say “my sympathy” and I do because I know you and your family will miss your dad. But what I really want to do is thank you for this wonderful, life affirming tribute. Your father’s legacy in you is evident and inspiring.

  11. Amen, and amen and again I say amen!

  12. A beautiful man who lived a wonderful life that blessed all of us it touched. Now those “eyes aflame” rest in the “bosom of Abraham” with all the saints above us. Amen. Maranatha.

  13. Susan, and David, I knew this was coming, but that doesn’t make it easier to hear. Thank you for all the beautiful word pictures you have painted for us over the last few years. Your family has been a part of mine from the day your father baptized me, through our time in Gottingen, my marriage, and now this. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. With love, Sarah Prather Haydon

  14. Thank you, Susan, for saying it so eloquently for all of us who valued your father as witness, teacher, colleague and friend. Your journal of his final years is a treasure worthy of his disciplined yet graceful life. His legacy, a better world and a wiser church.

    Pat Pattillo

  15. A beautiful tribute, Susan. I couldn’t help but think that Beethoven was deaf when he wrote this last symphony based on Schiller’s Old To Joy. Life’s difficulties do not stop the creativity of the great ones but rather sharpens it many cases. Your Dad was in that group. The most thrilling part of his text is the last stanza, translated: “Brothers, above the starry canopy there must dwell a loving Father. Do you fall in worship, you millions? World, do you know your Creator? Seek Him in the heavens, above the stars must He dwell.” Beethoven had desired to set this poem since his youth. The music in the text about the starry canopy is in the high strings and I can hear his striving to represent the dwelling place of the loving Father. How appropriate that Andrew had this resounding through the house. It echoes the lifelong message of your wonderful Father.

  16. Susan, your writing gives me goosebumps. What a wonderful elegy and what a wonderful salute to his passing — new suit, Ode to Joy and this tribute to his life.

  17. Oh Susan,
    I am so sorry. Know that I am holding you and your family in my heart and prayers. And I am wishing you and your family such peace…such peace.
    Love,
    Susan

  18. Thank you, Susan, for saying it so eloquently for all of us who valued your father as witness, teacher, colleague and friend. Your journal of his final years is a treasure worthy of his disciplined yet graceful life. His legacy: a better world and a wiser church.

  19. Susan, You are simply one of the most beautiful writers I read, anywhere. thank you. I count it one of my life’s greatest treasures to be able to count your father as a friend, not just a teacher and mentor, though he certainly were those to me as well. Thank you for the ways you have written about him over these last years. I will be in Birmingham to celebrate his life on Monday, and will always give thanks for the symphony which he, and your mother, were to me and my family. — Russ Dean

  20. dear, dear Susan, i have been waiting for this – for you to share your words, your comfort and your wonderful memories of our precious friend.  thank you for saying the things we want to hear and would echo in our memories.  i have recalled so many special tim es and relived the words that he gave to george and me in his many letters of thanks to us for any little thing we ever thought to do or give. i told andrew, my special friend, that when i get to heaven, if Jesus is not available, i want to sit at bill’s feet and listen to his words.  i treasure the tapes we have from his Bible study lessons and plan to spend much time relistening.  thank you again for your sharing of yourself at this time.  much love, pat scofield

    ________________________________

  21. Susan, what a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing this with us. I send all my love to you and yours,
    Marjory

  22. Susan, your elegant tribute rings with the same poetic beauty of the words and writings of your father. I am so grateful to have known him in good days and in not so good. It was his galvanizing spirit that helped bring me out of one of my own personal deserts, and led me to set to music his beautiful prayer, “Christ go be for you.” Few men have moved persons closer toward the God of light and love as did William Hull. Thanks for including us in your celebration of him through your words and pictures.

    Timothy Paul Banks (Prof. Emeritus, Samford University)

  23. Susan! I am just now finding this and crying as I type. How could I not have known that you and I were dealing with ALS at the same time? My Louisville fourth grade dear friend, I understand at the depth of spirit and at the reach of desire how ALS affects us all as family and as individuals. I so wish I had known of your blog while I instead imploded and became gray and plodding over these past years while I helplessly and impotently watched my dear younger brother struggle, lose his voice, keep his humor, lose all movement but his eye blinks, and always love us through his slow tedious painful eye gaze typing until finally he, in a blink of those wonderful eyes, died of an aneurism this July. Reading this takes me to the place I hid the sadness with a big stone over it, and I am sobbing now. Today is his birthday, December 11. He would have been 51. I miss him so incredibly. A piece of my heart is still with him, and now, with you. My father must not have heard, or if so, is too wrapped in his own grief for his son to let me know, but I now know and despite the superficial urge to pretend, I will tell him about his friend Bill Hull. I want to believe that Eddie and your dad are together in a grand new adventure. Much love dear Susan.

  24. A lovely tribute to a remarkable man. I consider myself very fortunate to have known him, worked with him, and learned from him. My sincere condolences on your loss.

    Mike Floyd

  25. What a perfect description of this fine man. We were in the same Leadership Birmingham class, and I will be ever grateful for this opportunity to get to know someone like him, who I probably never would have met otherwise. Would that we all deserved such a fine tribute as you have given him.

  26. Susan, thank you for sharing this beautiful post with us. My parents (Ken and Susan Berg) and I were at Mountain Brook Baptist with your father for several years, and he was one of my favorite people in all the world. I loved to hear him preach, I always enjoyed our conversations, and I learned so much from his writings. I’ll never forget how encouraging and supportive he was when I informed him that I had answered God’s call on my life to go to seminary, and how he would always ask how my classes were going when I would come home to visit. He was such an inspiration to me, and so many others. He will be greatly missed but we rejoice that he is now standing joyfully in the presence of Christ, whom he served so faithfully. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time.

    David Berg

  27. A moving tribute, as are many of these comments. My prayers will include you and your family tonight.

  28. Susan, thank you for sharing this intimate and inspiring journey with your Dad and the rest of us. I was privileged to visit your Dad and Mother when he was in our hospital, and I was the one blessed.

    I have shared your blog before with friends and our pastoral care team here at the hospital. We have all learned to be better persons from the Hull family. God’s peace be with you and your family.

  29. Susan, sending you all my love.. Yes, your writing touched my soul.
    Many thanks for sharing, loving and living.

  30. Susan – You are clearly Bill Hull’s loving daughter, bringing him to life for us with your beautiful words. He and Wylodine together truly made our lives fuller and more meaningful by helping open minds to the greatness of God’s gift of life to us and the freedom that comes with that love. Come visit your and their friends in Shreveport. Carolyn Huckabay

  31. Susan: I am one of the multitude of former students indebted to your father for the inspiration and education he provided; I still refer to my class notes from his 1972 call “The Teachings of Jesus” and his commentary on John in the BBC. He was the master teacher-preacher-administrator. Please know of my sadness; and I join the many who are surrounding you and your family with prayerful arms of Christian love and comfort. In your dad’s own words, which I have preserved: “May you know a special sense of His presence, and may you know it is the presence of the King!”

  32. Susan,
    I had the privilege to care for both your Mother and Father. They we the most kind and loving folks. Your dad and I had a special bond and have thought of him fondly since he went on Hospice. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  33. Susan, from Ellis and Juanita Bush, so glad we could read the feelings of your heart. We had not been with your parents for a long time,, but we go way back. Ellis was even in their wedding!!!!! Then the years in Sheveport were special in so many ways. Hope to hear from you as the years move on.

  34. Dear Susan,
    Unable to keep up with email for a while, I only now remembered I had missed your last two posts, and so learned just now about your father’s transition.
    I can’t tell you how moved I am by your words. More than most people can, they touch that love you have inherited and cultivated and lift it up for us to see its light and feel its warmth.
    How can I thank you for this great gift – your sharing with us your own and some of your parents’ stories? It’s a bright and warm light for all of us.
    And now my sister, know that I will keep you in my prayer. I know you have rich resources to draw from, your own heart first of all, but also books. But I will nevertheless email you the list of books on grief and bereavement which I found helpful after Francis died, only eight days short of four years ago.
    When the time is ripe – why don’t you write a memoir? For me it’s been, not just a healing process to write Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story (available next month) but a way to celebrate my beloved Francis.

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