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29 July, 2008

Anthony Burger lives through his music

...God spared him temporarily for the world to enjoy

Rosanne and I appreciate music of all kinds. Symmetry seems to engulf us when we are listening to music. It brings out feelings and emotions in both of us and thankfully we have similar tastes. We are also totally hooked on all the music reality shows -- American Idol, Canadian Idol, Nashville Star and the most recent How to Solve a Problem Like Maria. In short, there is rarely a time when music of some kind is not playing in our home.
I introduced Rosanne to gospel music shortly after we were married and she is now as big a fan as I am. In fact it can be said that gospel has become one of our most favorite forms of music. Of course Rosanne still does flip-flops over Elvis Presley and many of Elvis' hits came from the gospel venue. Personally I lean toward Shania Twain, but I digress. We are particularly fond of what is popularly known as "Gaither music". We have tapes and CDs and regularly listen to The Gaither Hour and Gaither Homecoming on television every Friday evening. One of our all-time favorite Gaither personalities was the late Anthony Burger, a gifted award-winning pianist. His exuberance and superior talent at the keyboard was unequalled and he continues to be celebrated in gospel music circles the world over. If anyone could make a piano "talk", it was Anthony. He was all about the lyrics and he explained his ability by saying that he had been trained to "play the words", not the music. And it was true that as he played you could actually hear the words as if the piano keys were singing them.

As an infant, Anthony suffered extensive burns to both his hands, legs and face when he fell on a red hot furnace grate and was not strong enough to lift himself free. Doctors told his devastated parents that he would never have the use of his hands but as he healed and grew, God-given talent was not to be denied. By the time he was 16, he was the pianist for one of gospel music's foremost quartets, the Kingsmen, and very much in demand. "The Lord healed my hands because He had a job for me to do," Anthony said in a biography on his web site.

Sadly, at only 44 years of age, Anthony suffered a massive heart attack several years ago and died on stage following a performance as part of a Gaither cruise out of Miami. Some time later when we learned of his death, Rosanne and I were in agreement that Gaither music would never be the same again. "How could God let this happen? Why would He give the world Anthony's wonderful talent and then take it away so prematurely at the peak of his career. Perhaps Anthony had fulfilled and exceeded his Maker's "job" description for him and it was time to collect his Heavenly reward.

We have to be thankful that we could enjoy Anthony for as long as we did. Like millions of other admirers, we have his tapes and CDs and we can play them and enjoy them over and over again. In essence, Anthony comes back to life through his recorded music and he will continue to bless the lives of countless millions for years to come.

To a lesser degree, perhaps, every one of us has potential for enduring life. It may not be in the form of recorded music but, in the end, we leave a legacy nonetheless. Maybe we all should give more serious consideration to what we will be leaving behind someday, apart from a Last Will and Testament.

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