Her music has a way of transcending my pain
By MARY COLBORN
Port Orchard Independent columnist
January 29, 2009 · Updated 1:05 PM
Synchronicity is defined as, “a coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related.”
In the class I’m taking with a group in Poulsbo on “The Artist’s Way,” a 12-week course designed to unlock your creative potential through spiritual examination and practices, it is defined as “a fortuitous intermeshing of events.”
The course examines situation after situation in which the right person or opportunity arrives just as you need him, her or it — as long as you stay open.
Even if you don’t, it seems as if the powerful force of synchronicity will not be denied.
We try, though, don’t we?
I resisted Jeryl Kay Struble’s seeming intrusion into my life with as much will as possible. I sat in front of her in church for years and never noticed her or attempted to meet her.
I had chosen that particular church carefully to stay anonymous – no teaching of Sunday school for me, no organizing of food drives, no serving on the parish council and no concern for the lives of other members.
If I could avoid the politics and the people, I could avoid the pain.
I know, not exactly churchlike thoughts. But my last church experience left me sufficiently traumatized.
Then when I met Jeryl at an unrelated community gathering and she mentioned that she had not only noticed me, but gave thought to who I was, thinking that we could be sisters.
I was unnerved. When she handed me a CD of original music, 16 songs she wrote and recorded, I complained.
“This woman wants me to listen to songs she wrote about hope and healing,” I told a close friend.
“Then listen. Don’t dismiss her and her work,” answered my friend, who claims to be “a wise old sage” and have wisdom beyond parallel.
Now, I have never sat through an entire CD in my life. I’m always up and moving. (I never sit through movies, either, because, well, that’s license to sleep.)
But, with Jeryl’s music, we did, sitting motionless and mesmerized while her entire repertoire played.
As I sit here and try to describe it, I cannot find the words.
Her vocals were skilled and polished and her voice pure.
Her gifts are evident. That much is true and easy to say.
The melodies and choruses lifted and surprised, but it was the place that the songs took you that defies description.
It was the feeling they left inside of you that knows no parallel. I only know that when I heard the songs, I was sure that they should be on the radio and that thousands of people should be listening to her work.
The rest, I can’t explain. I can’t explain why I went back to that particular church service recently just to see her. (And, ask to buy copies.)
Nor can I explain why she said that she prayed I would be there.
Nor do I have an explanation for why you are sitting here today reading her story. I only know that when I sat down to speak with her about her work, she shared episodes of pain that rivaled and eclipsed my own.
As I struggle with the South Kitsap School District levy question – do I vote no and send an important message or vote yes “for the kids” – she shared that she had endured church and traumatic teaching experiences that were every bit as painful as my own.
She transcended them, though, pouring all her pain, grief, anguish and despair into a work that is so beautiful it transcends description.
While I speak to her outside of church, the people coming up to greet her seem to agree.
“I listened to your CD over and over,” one woman said. “It’s exquisite.”
“Without my music, I wouldn’t have been able to heal as I have,” Jeryl explained. “Every song relates to an experience. My hope is that with this music I can make a difference.”
My sense is that she will.
The song, “You are the Great I am,” she wrote when she felt “far away from God,” when incidents of childhood abuse bubbled to the surface and demanded attention.
As the psychology major with a master’s degree in teaching and another in linguistics listened to the original work by another singer, she thought for the first time, “Could I write a song?”
She did, finishing the song within an hour. She was surprised by its reception.
“People loved it and asked for it over and over,” Jeryl said. “It is as if healing energy went into creating it. I can’t explain how or why.”
Her song, “It’s Raining,” one of my favorites, has that effect as well.
Its history is as fascinating as it is sad. After a year spent teaching at a Kentucky boarding school, Jeryl returned to study at the University of Washington and stumbled into a Russian history class.
The professor pleaded with the Jeryl and a fellow student to “study Russian,” so he wouldn’t have to cancel the class that was being held for just the two.
She did, teaching herself the basics of Russian “over the Christmas holidays.”
She went on to work as a translator for World Relief, “the best job imaginable,” and taught Russian for 14 years with the Bellevue Community College. Her aide throughout that time was a young man, Andre Kobets, who contracted a brain tumor he attributed to his exposure to the Cherynobyl nuclear explosion.
His death hit Jeryl hard.
“His wife and I were just bawling on the phone together one day,” Jeryl said, “and I noticed that it was raining outside. It seemed as if God was crying along with us.”
The words in the song, “You were so kind, always thinking of the other and rarely of yourself ... and you had to go and leave us so soon,” followed by the chorus, “It’s raining in my heart tonight and its pouring down outside, I can’t believe you are really gone ... When I hear the rain I know that my God’s right here crying with me,” resonates with anyone who has ever mourned.
Jeryl couldn’t have completed the CD without the loving support of so many, including her husband and children who “listened to every song over and over,” her brother, David Banks, a retired Microsoft executive-turned-philanthropist, the friend who inspired another of my favorite songs on the CD, “You Saw Me with God’s Eyes,” and Gil Yslas, who engineered the CD and performed the instrumentals.
“He saw me through two years worth of work and healing,” Jeryl said.
You can find information on Jeryl and her work, including the CD Journey to Joy at: http://cdbaby.com/cd/jerylkay or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.