“Sing We Now at Parting,” New Era, June 1989, 64
It was the last week of high school. Among the seniors there was a feeling of celebration and yet also sadness, because what they’d shared was coming to an end.
Dark-eyed, raven-haired Whitney Brown, the only member of the Church in her Minnesota high school class of 547, would be going to Ricks College in the fall. She played first chair French horn in the high school band.
Next to her in the French horn section was Steve Dunn, also a senior, a boy she’d known since first grade.
The last week of school the seniors were excused from rehearsals while the rest of the band practiced the songs they would play for baccalaureate and commencement. Mr. Richards, the band director, asked the seniors to help sort and file music. And so each day, Steve and Whitney would meet during band period and sort through music in a practice room. By Tuesday the other seniors had vanished, having better things to do than that.
While Steve and Whitney worked they talked. They’d been talking to each other once a day during band for the past six years, going clear back to seventh grade band.
Steve was a little on the shy side. Band had been his only activity in school. His father had an auto body shop, and Steve worked there after school and on Saturdays.
Through the years Steve had listened to Whitney’s chronicle of life, hectic but always interesting. She had always talked to him openly about the guys she was interested in because he was her friend and seemed interested in her and never talked to anyone else about what she said.
Steve’s plan after high school was to study auto body work at a regional vocational training center and then come back and work for his father. Fixing dented cars was what he loved to do.
Whitney thought that someday she might like to be a high school drama teacher. She’d been in nearly every play in school. Steve had come to see her perform in most of them.
On Friday they had nearly finished sorting and filing the sheet music. “I guess this is the last time we’ll be together,” Steve said.
“Oh, not really. We’ll see each other at commencement.”
“Sure, but you have your friends.” He paused. “And I have mine. Besides I bet it’ll be really crowded. I just wanted to say I’ve really enjoyed knowing you,” he said, his gaze fixed on the music he was working on, not daring to look at her directly.
“I’ve enjoyed you too, Steve. You’re really a nice guy. If I ever bang up my car, you’re the first person I’ll think of.”
“I can hardly wait.”
They both smiled. They had a comfortable kind of humor between them.
“I’ve kind of been watching you through the years,” he said.
She laughed. “You poor guy.”
“No, it’s been great. I always looked forward to band each day because I knew I’d see you.” He stopped suddenly. “I’m sorry for spouting off. I’m not all that important to you, right?”
“You are, Steve. You’re one of my friends from high school I’ll always remember.”
“I was always hoping you’d open up more to me.”
“Steve, I’ve told you practically everything that ever happened to me. I told you about the time I was waiting for my date for prom and I was so hungry I took a bite of my brother’s hot dog and spilled mustard on my prom dress just before my date came and had to pin the corsage over the stain. I told you about sneaking into school and turning around all the desks in Mrs. Halvorson’s class. I’ve told you a lot of things.”
He looked at her like he’d been betrayed. “Do you care what happens to me?”
“Of course I do.”
“What’s the most important thing in the world to you?” he asked.
She didn’t say anything.
“Whitney?” he asked softly.
“I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“Just tell me what it is you value above anything else in the world?”
She paused and then said, “My family I guess.”
“What else is important to you?”
“I’m glad I get to go to college in the fall.”
“Is going to college the most important thing in your life?”
“Then what is?”
She paused. “I’m glad I’ve learned to set and achieve goals.”
“Is that the most important thing in your life?” he asked.
“Nobody in school really knows you very well, do they?”
She turned away from his stare.
“I’ve always been fascinated by you,” he said. “You had fun but you had a way of avoiding things that weren’t good for you. I could never figure out how you could be so smart. It was like you had some hidden compass that helped you make decisions. And then someone told me you were a Mormon.”
“You didn’t know that?”
“No, not really. Maybe you mentioned it in passing once. I can’t remember. You never said much about it. Is being a Mormon important to you?”
“Yes it is.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me then? We were friends, but you never once talked about what you believe. Why not? Are you ashamed of your beliefs?”
“I didn’t want to offend you.”
“Why would I be offended if you told me something that was important to you?”
“I didn’t think you’d be interested.”
“Maybe I wasn’t at first, but I’ve spent all this time with you. I know we’ll probably never see each other after we graduate. I’m really going to miss that.” He sighed. “I guess what I’m trying to say is I want to have friends like you all my life.”
“Can I tell you now about what I believe?” she asked.
“I’d like that.”
And so as the band rehearsed the commencement processional music that would lead the 547 seniors out of high school into adult life, with the French horn section noticeably lacking its two best players, Whitney started in.