Earl was the Chief Psalmist at our church in New York City. He was also recognized as a prophet within the church. He had an incredible voice. Some likened him to Ron Kenolly. We all knew he was destined for greatness. The question wasn't if but rather when. A voice like his could not and would not be contained within the four walls of our sanctuary.
Finally, Earl got his big break. The Bishop of the church wanted to do an album. Quite naturally Earl's vocal abilities would be showcased. A group of select men from the church were commissioned to complete the album. I had only known Earl for about two years but I can honestly say, I had never seen him happier. Life hadn't always been easy for him but at long last, things were working out in his favor. His prayers were being answered. Not only had his vocals been featured on the album but the Bishop had inked a deal with a major gospel music label. Earl was on his way; or so we all thought. Shortly after the album was released, it was quickly pulled from distribution. I don't know the details of what transpired but seemingly things went downhill for Earl afterwards.
Following a corporate church fast, Earl became ill and was diagnosed as being HIV positive. Almost six months to the day of his initial diagnosis, Earl died from AIDS. He never did reach that level of greatness that we all believed and knew he would achieve. It wasn't just that we believed this, it had been prophesied to him that he would do great and mighty works within the kingdom of God. The numerous prophesies spoke of all that he would achieve musically, yet at the age of 42, he was dead and would never walk out those words. Like so many others, I was devastated. Earl was a dear friend of mine and had an incredible testimony of overcoming drugs. I had never met someone who had such a love and passion for God. As most people processed and moved past Earl's death, I was baffled by it. Years later, I was still trying to make since of it. I understand that death is apart of the life cycle, but the way Earl died is what disturbed me. Lying in his hospital bed weak and all but unable to walk, Earl would find the strength to pull himself up from the bed, walk out of his room and towards the nurses station.
"Somebody please help me," Earl cried out just before collapsing to the floor and dying.
It was as if Earl had a change of heart; about what no one will ever know. I can say that on previous occasions, Earl had been notorious for checking himself out of the hospital; against the will and desire of his peers, family and health care professionals. He wanted to live by faith; wanted to believe God for his healing. Yet his last words would be 'somebody help me.'
Earl's death left an indelible mark upon me. I understood that Earl had a drug past but in my mind, I thought the Word of the Lord would trump all of that. I believed that God's word reigned supreme. As I often heard, if God said it that settles it! Besides, Earl had repented and was now a Christian...
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