In memory of Billy and Barbara Hudgins; two people who danced to the music of the blacksmith.
His were the hands of a blacksmith: thick and muscled, calloused and worn. A fingernail was black from being crushed and there seemed to be dirt permanently embedded in the creases of his knuckles. There are a lot of words that could be used to describe these hands. Powerful. Muscular. Strong. Steady. Skilled. But there has to be one word added to this list, and it is a word that may surprise you: graceful.
These hands did not belong to any ordinary blacksmith. They belonged to one nicknamed Studabe (pronounced STOO-duh-bee). He was branded with this monniker because his real name is Stuart, but because of a stuttering problem it always came out, “Stu-da, Stu-da, Stuart.” Studabe is a man whose faith is as simple as his profession. He trusts in Jesus just as much as he trusts in the straight and true swing of his hammer. To many people he may appear to be an ordinary blacksmith, albeit one with a stuttering problem, but that all changes when he sits down at a piano.
He can’t read a lick of music, but that doesn’t phase him. In the course of playing a hymn, he will find all 88 keys that lay before him. In a style that may remind you more of a 19th century saloon than a 21st century church, the piano comes alive with the music of the blacksmith. Sometimes his hands are light and feathery, at other times they betray the power behind them as the vase on the piano teeters with the vibrations. He doesn’t just play the music, he feels it and bends it to his will, just like a red-hot piece of steel in his workshop. Behind the keystrokes of the piano you experience the ring of a hammer on anvil, and in the quiet parts of the melody you see the beauty and grace of wrought iron.
He played at the funeral of my wife’s grandmother. His music matched well with her life: lively, colorful, generous, joyful, and strong. He gave a gift that only he could give, he gave himself. As his hands poured out their rendition of ‘In the Garden,’ tears moistened eyes as if smoke from the forge wafted into them, but the tears disappeared when the chords of ‘I Saw the Light’ filled the air and brought smiles, and even some foot-tapping from everyone present. I am sure, that when my time comes to cross into the threshold of heaven, that the music of the angels just might be accompanied by a hammer striking anvil as the blacksmith plays his song.