Dexter Scantlebury

When I was a freshman in college I was lucky enough to take part in a production of Children Of Eden. I had begged my professor to be a part of it because they had held the auditions the year before, when I was still in high school.

The big world of college was just opening up to me and I was still finding out who I was and why I was and all that existential foolishness. I remember walking through the Cove building and stopping to listen outside the closed door of one of the practice rooms. Someone was singing so beautifully, so delicately yet with real strength. His voice was rich and powerful one moment, tender and controlled the next. Eventually there were several of us standing there, listening, scattering when the door opened.

The next time I heard the voice was on the stage, during rehearsals. He was playing the role of God. He sang to Adam and he sang to Noah and he sang to encompass all of the love that God has for his children, and everyone wept, every night.

That next summer I was working at a church camp in Upstate New York when he came through for a couple of weeks. He was leading a small group of singing college kids. He was always so dapper, so put together. His hair was always perfect. His clothes were always Gap. I remember walking at dusk with a group of friends and talking about him. We said some hurtful things, as children do. I remember looking back for some reason and realizing that he had been sitting off to the side of the road in the shadow of a tree. I knew he heard us, heard me.

The next year he was leading a small group that I was a part of. He never let on that he had heard me before, but I know he did. He was too proud. I hope he forgave me. My favorite moments with him that summer was when he was driving us around in that huge van, singing. That voice, my God.

We faded into and out of each other’s lives for a couple of years. He had graduated and was working in admissions, I was busy building who I was into some semblance of personality. We still hung out on occasion, with our small group of friends, but not all the time.

I really connected with him after I graduated. He invited me to join a group at his apartment in Boston for a New Years Eve party. We hung out, listened to music, ate bad food and drank terrible drinks and just loved being together. All of us. We went downtown for New Years and practically froze. We were young and happy.

After that visit he and I started talking almost every day. We found out that we had so much more in common than we ever thought. We confided in each other. We racked up phone bills. We became close. He had started a new relationship and was falling in love. He seemed happy to share his stories with me.

And then one night he didn’t call when he was supposed to. I figured that he was busy, or out, and thought nothing of it. His roommate called me later. He had been trying to reach everyone my friend knew. He found my number on the phone bill.

My friend had died that day, from a senseless stupid random disease. In a matter of hours, he went from feeling fine to feeling a little sick to falling into a coma to dying.

None of us were prepared. How do you say goodbye to a friend that young? What about all of the plans that he had? What about the happiness he had so recently found? Why would this be allowed to happen?

And his friends came together. We talked about him. We shared our individual stories. We found out that he was special to each of us, in different ways. His gift was making us all feel that we meant something special to him.

With joy, I remember.

Dexter Scantlebury, 2-15-1998.

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9 Responses to Dexter Scantlebury

  1. BrendaM says:

    Thanks for sharing that. I still remember those performances and that voice. A quiet, beautiful soul. Singing with the angels now. Hard to believe it has already been that long.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I remember that day as well. I was sitting in the campus radio station when someone came in to tell me that someone at the school had died. I knew Dexter in the way you knew him as a younger student. He had passed through our church camp as well when I was a senior and helped me with some personal thoughts about God I had been having. When camp was over I never heard from him again. When I got to ENC and realized he was there I had the chance to talk to him again but never took it. So, I went to the chapel held for him by the students. I went to the memorial service at the church held for him by the community. It broke my heart that this community of young people had to mourn and that an entire family of ENC students and his bio family had lost such a great spirit. I remember seeing you and others up front morning a man I hardly knew wishing I had taken the chance to reconnect. I had seen the video of Children of Eden thinking what a wonderful voice he had and if he was as angelic in person as he was on stage then I know he touched more lives than just mine. I am glad that my thoughts were correct. I still think of him from time to time and the conversations we had in that tiny white chapel on the hill and I thank God that Dexter was a part of my small life in such a big way that he will never know until I see him again in Heaven.

  3. Mike Schutz says:

    Thanks

  4. Dorothy says:

    What a nice tribute. Thanks.

  5. Carolyn says:

    I will never forget that call from Jeff. Or Dexter’s voice. His life and funeral (and what I discovered then) really impacted my life.

  6. Michelle Dickson says:

    Wow – I can’t believe it’s been that long. What a beautiful tribute! I still remember getting the phone call, and hoping it was all a really bad joke. There are so many good memories, both from ENC and after we’d graduated. We were singing together the night I met my husband. I still miss him and think of him often. Thanks so much for this post!

  7. carolyn sanelli says:

    thank you — a dear friend — for some it may be his singing, but for me the sound of his laughing will still bring a smile to my face

  8. Mark Schuman says:

    Dexter came to mind today as I listened to some music he recorded for another show. It has honestly been years since I’ve thought of him, but hearing his voice brought me back to the rehearsal where I first met him. He was such a talent, and I was intimidated by that talent. This is a lovely tribute to his memory.

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