Some thoughts about Roby Duke, who died last December 26…
I don’t remember the first time I met Roby Duke, but it was sometime during my tenure at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, which was from 1989-1991. Richard Cimino was the High School pastor at the time, and he had met Roby, and started inviting him to play at High School events. My first distinct memory of Roby was a Halloween concert we did with him at CCCM around 1990. I was singing with Richard, Mike Minardi, Scott Stewart, and Terry McNabb in the Mirrors, and Roby played before us (or after us?).
As a band, we didn’t stink, but in retrospect, why on Earth did I ever try to share the stage with him? I guess I was a legend in my own mind. Blessed naivety.
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2007 was a year of new discoveries for me. I discovered that there was a lot I didn’t understand. The discoveries were not regarding book knowledge, but heart knowledge. The things of life. Let me explain.
In June, I became the “father of the bride”. I was blindsided, even though Sarah and Caleb were engaged for months. Caleb asked me well in advance to court Sarah, and then after many months, asked for her hand in marriage. I wasn’t surprised about what was going on, and I knew how this was going to turn out, but I was completely surprised about my reactions to it all.
As their wedding day approached, I was increasingly struck with thoughts and questions about how well I had done as a father. My only daughter was leaving “me”, and this was it. There wasn’t going to be any “do-overs”. I had raised her to follow Jesus, and now she had the nerve to actually follow Jesus, and to be joined to this young man. I was going to have to trust “this guy” to take care of my Princess. (Caleb is a great guy, you know what I mean) There was nothing to object to, and only joy to be felt. Why then, were my emotions swirling so?
Then in August, I became the “father of the groom”, as our son Chris took Melissa as his bride. Once again, personal reflection took over. What kind of man had I raised Chris to be? Had I been too busy with ministry responsibilities? Had I spent enough time with him? The questions charged at me relentlessly. Again, there would be no do-overs with Chris. He was 21, and becoming a husband. The emotions and self-examination rocked me.
This was it. The day of reckoning. The total sum of my worth as a dad was now going to measured. (I momentarily forgot about Jon. Sorry son!)
My kids were starting their own lives, just like they were supposed to. They were marrying great people. They loved Jesus. I should have been nothing but happy, right?
Well, very naturally, I finally got past the weddings. My emotions stabilized, and I started to settle down. Then it happened.
Chris and Melissa got a dog. His name is Tucker, and he is a beautiful Golden Lab.
I have had three dogs in my life, and they were all high maintenance animals. “Digger” was a Black Lab, and he, well…dug a lot. “Bear” was an 80 lb white Samoyed that ate shoes and was a tick magnet. “Brandy” was a cute little Siberian Husky who was half gopher, dug out under the fence a lot, and had lots of puppies as a result.
Me and dogs were not working well.
I finally swore off dogs, seeing no redeeming purpose for them. They were a waste of time, and the return for the effort put into them was not worth it. Then Tucker came along, and suddenly, I felt like a Grandpa. Where in the world did THAT come from? I had a grandpuppy. What in the world happened to me? I even let him in the house, and he sat around our dinner table. And I liked it! Talk about coming in from left field.
This last December 28 (my birthday), I awoke to a call informing me that my friend Roby Duke had died of a massive heart attack. I was stunned. My parents and sister are still alive, thank God. In my 52 years, I had never lost someone so close. I have lost other friends and family, but this was new. I had an emotional connection with Roby that was eclipsed only by my wife Debbie. I spent the next two days searching online for every picture, every article, every blog tribute, and every video of Roby that I could find. I read and listened and Googled over and over. I tried to step away from my computer, but felt emotionally compelled to keep reading, looking, listening. Was there something I missed? Had anyone posted anything new? What was I hoping to accomplish with all this?
I was supposed to see him in three days, and we were “gonna have fun”. We were gonna do music, then he and Erick Hailstone were going to go to “Never Never” land playing guitars. Then we were gonna eat tacos really late on New Year’s Eve off of the taco trucks downtown. We had a plan.
And then he was gone.
I was angry at him. I cried a lot. I smiled a lot. I sobbed. I was all over the map with my emotions. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
So what? Glad you asked. You should always ask, “so what?”
My purpose for writing all of this is to share an additional discovery with you all.
The discovery is this: You don’t know until you know.
You don’t KNOW until you KNOW.
YOU don’t know until YOU know.
You DON’T know UNTIL you know.
Catch my drift?
It is very easy for us to view and judge the world based upon our own experiences. We determine how people ought to be feeling. We judge their spirituality based upon how we believe we would react to the same situation. We wonder why they can’t get over things, and determine that they should be further along in their emotional lives.
We minimize their life experiences, and measure their lives by our own. We forget that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, uniquely individual. We assume that everyone is like us. They ought to feel like we do, think like we do, and react like we do.
And the crazy insane thing about it is: we are SO sure that we are right.
Of course, that all changes when what they are going through finally comes into our life. Then we really see what we are made of.
Let me confess some things.
I have never, ever been able to relate to things like candle light vigils, flowers and stuffed animals at a makeshift shrine, posters addressed to the deceased, etc. I always thought that that stuff was well, a little extreme.
Now I understand it.
I have never understood what parents went through as the nest was emptying out.
Now I understand it.
I have never known how wrong I could be in judging other people’s reactions to pain sorry, change, loss, etc.
Now I understand it.
One great thing that has come as a result of this year’s discoveries is this: I am a different guy. At least I think so. I certainly hope so.
God has kept His promise to “work all things together for good for those who love God”. (Romans 8:28)
God has taught me a lot through the discoveries of 2007.
I am slowing down a bit now. I am lingering in conversation a bit longer. I am trying harder to look into people’s eyes, and listen more intently. I am trying to love more.
I am trying to not relate with others based upon their feelings for life, their experiences, their reactions, etc. I am trying to listen and understand, and I am trying to simply love people better, regardless if can relate to them at all.
I am revisiting old attitudes that I have had, and repenting of some of them. I am trying to be patient with others who are judging people based upon their limited experiences.
Most of all I am thanking Jesus for stepping into my world. The Bible says that “He was in all ways, temped as we are, and yet without sin”.
I am stuck in my highs and lows. I cannot avoid times of sorrow. I am a man, and stuck in my humanity, good and bad.
But Jesus stepped into MY world, put on flesh, and chose to feel the things I would rather avoid. He did it so that He could be my “Great High Priest”, one who could identify with my weakness, and comfort me.
Some discoveries are things that we go looking for. Other discoveries blindside us.
If you are a Christian, God will use every single one of them for your good and His.
May I encourage you to not be so sure in your judgment of how others ought to be feeling? You probably don’t have all the facts, and you haven’t walked in their shoes. You very possibly don’t now how they feel, and if you had more facts, you would probably change your tune about them.
And, more than anything, …remember that Jesus LOVES them.
He loves you too.
For those of you who desire to see more video clips, hear music, or read personal stories about Roby, I have listed some links you can check out.
Roby’s performance at Calvary Chapel Oxnard, December 23, 2007
An audio file: Roby playing with Bob Bennett and Steve Hopkins:
Scroll down to the September 23 date to listen.
Roby’s MySpace page: check out music, thoughts, farewell messages from friends:
Pete Claproth’s blog page: Pete has written some great memories of Roby.
Roby’s web page: old news and new news.
Pastor Steve Hopkins, Calvary Chapel, Salem Oregon. Steve was very good friends with Roby.
Check out Steve’s blog at http://thepreachersfishinghole.blogspot.com/
Matt Kees is part of the Christian Musician’s Summit.
He posted two of the YouTube videos of Roby. (Thanks Matt)
Check out Matt’s blog: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=55772139&blogID=342264146
A young man named Jeremy did a video using Roby’s song, “One Embrace”.
Thanks all. I have learned through losing my friend that the things that count most are God and people. I already knew that, but now I know it more.
May your hearts be strengthened even more to truly love folks, look into their eyes when you talk to them, and don’t be in a hurry.
This will be a short post, but needs to be written for a few of you who need to know.
I was awakened this morning and informed that Roby Duke died this last Wednesday, apparently of a massive heart attack. He was discovered by his friend and manager Anne Baldwin and her son, I believe today.
To many of you to whom I write, you were at least familiar with Roby, or had become a friend. To some of us, Roby had become a very good friend.
I first met Roby back in 1990, and over the next 17 years we became close. We weren’t close because we saw each other frequently, but because there was a certain sameness that we enjoyed. This is a great loss for me, and for many. I spent the day on the phone with many of Roby’s friends. If you were Roby’s friend, you were friends with his friends. When you meet them, there is a bond.
Our church was scheduled to have Roby come and share with us on this Dec. 31. He invited his friends Erick Hailstone and Heather Powers to join him. Our church worship team was even going to play a few songs with him. That will have to wait for now. Heather and Erick will join us, and we will celebrate Roby’s life, and play some of his music.
If you never had the chance to meet Roby, visit his web page at robyduke.com. There is a “news” link that will take you to his MySpace page. Spend some time listening to his music, and if you can purchase some, I urge you to do it.
One of Roby’s signature songs was, “I Shall See God”. The song ends with 7 notes and 7 words. “I shall see Him, touch His face”. 7 is the number of completion, and Roby has kept the faith, fought the good fight, and run the race.
He has gone on ahead of us, having completed what God had for him here.
Funeral arrangements are pending. I’ll keep you posted.