Sunday, May 1, 2005
A Mentor Named Mary
A wonderful woman named Mary Preston was a mentor to me in my early years of singing, and instrumental in my learning to play the piano. She never had children, but she treated me as I were her own. I share this in honor of Mother's Day.
As a teenager I sang in the church choir. I enjoyed watching the pianist, Mary, as her fingers glided across the ivories providing the upbeat and lively accompaniment to our choir specials.
One Sunday Mary stopped me after church. “Donna, you have a good voice. Have you ever thought of singing a solo?”
The idea of singing by myself terrified me, but I went to Mary’s for the fun of it. We practiced for a while. Afterwards she served the most fantastic chocolate cake I’d ever tasted. I’m not sure how she convinced me – maybe it was the caffeine, but I agreed to sing a solo in church the next Sunday.
Then one day she invited me to her home. Two other women showed up. Mary announced, “These are your backup singers.”
Mary continued to mentor me over the next few years. She invited me to her home often, and on special occasions fixed her famous chocolate cake. Written out, the recipe covered an entire page of single-spaced notebook paper, and required a significant amount of time to prepare.
So what was a special occasion? Anytime I came over. Mary always managed to have a freshly baked cake for me, and we celebrated many truly special occasions – my first solo, the first time we sang as a group, the recording of my first album, which Mary and her husband financed, and eventually, my stepping out to sing in a group that traveled our tri-state area.
Shortly after I got married, Mary found out she had cancer and passed away within no time. After her death, I was blessed to bring her piano to my home and learn to play.
When I think of Mary, I recall her dedication to mentor a young woman like me. In Luke 6:40 (NIV), Jesus said, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Thirty years later, I’m still singing. I’m a pastor’s wife, and I learned to play that piano and now, like Mary was so long ago, I’m the church pianist.
Often I think of Mary and the encouragement and blessing she bestowed upon my life, and I’m reminded of a woman who sacrificed her time and talent to help a floundering young woman find her purpose.
I still eat chocolate every day, but despite my best effort, I’ve never been able to duplicate Mary’s cake. I pray I’ll be able to duplicate her ministry as a mentor to someone else.
And I’m sure to give that recipe another try!
*To make a cake similar to Mary's, click here.