On this fateful day ten years ago a very good friend of mine slipped the surly bonds of earth and kissed the face of God. Keith Layne was a husband, a father, a pastor, a singer, a worshiper and a lover of all (well, most) people. He loved good food and good laughter and had an eclectic love for music—there just wasn’t too much music that he couldn’t find something to appreciate.
He called me the day before he suffered an aortic aneurysm in Wichita Falls. He opened the conversation singing a phrase of a song that I had butchered a few years earlier. Our quartet was singing in Backwater, East Texas and we were approaching half-time. We were singing the beautiful old song, “When the Savior Reached Down For Me.” Everyone was supposed to repeat the last line and hold it when we sang, “I was lost and undone, then He gave me His Son, When He reached down His hand…” and the music was to hold and I was supposed to sing in high-tenor, “for me,” and hold it while the guys finished with a flourish, “reached for me!!”
Well, I had a brain-breakdown. I sang it with them, got to the ending, was holding my part with them in perfect harmony… and nothing. I thought, “Someone should be singing right now…” and then turned and Keith, Leroy and Rex were all looking at me like I had lost my mind. Then I remembered and with deflated lungs from holding the other note, I simply squeaked, “for me,” and it was falsetto, thin and pathetic. Nothing like the big ending we were supposed to end half-time on.
We all went into the hallway and fell out laughing, and it became a standing joke for someone to sing high-pitched and nasally, “for me…” and then we would just laugh till we couldn’t breath. Good memories with good friends.
The day before Keith suffered his aneurysm he called me and all he had to do was to eek out the shriveled words, “for me,” in a high-pitched, pinched voice and I knew instantly whom I was talking to, what we were talking about and the subsequent guffaws of laughter were so refreshing. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to laugh with him again.
Keith wasn’t perfect… just like me and you. But he always had a God-bend in his spirit. He wanted to be around the throne in worship and that God consciousness would always bring him back to that worshiping posture, and I have worshiped many times at his side along with Rex Johnson and Leroy Kelly back in the “old days.” Great times, great memories, and great men.
Vince Gill wrote for his brother – “Go rest high on the mountain, son, your work on earth is done…” Today I sing that for Keith…but I really wish I weren’t.
Heaven must be a pretty great place. Save me a place, Keith…yeah, one just “for me.”