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Gary DeVaul Writings

ugust 3, 2003 - It started off like just about any other Sunday, of which there are 52 every year! He was all geared up to lead a congregation in worship as he played their organ. Organs from across the country have hosted this man, churches belonging to each one have been blessed hundredfold by his music ministry. But this particular Sunday was special. This Sunday he was teaming up with a friend from college days, Judy Hanlon. They hadn't seen each other in years, but they worked together seamlessly as they led the congregation in a service of worship in song. It was a glorious service for all at First Congregational Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, but particularly fun for Mark and Judy. The celebration didn't stop at the end of the service. They spent the afternoon together celebrating reunited friendships with several people, reminiscing for hours.

Before he realized it, Mark noticed it was past time for him to make his journey back to his host's home in Ogunquit, Maine, just over 100 miles away from where he was in Worcester. As he headed back in the Toyota 4Runner he had borrowed from his host, Gary De Vaul, Mark very quickly realized that his Sunday drive through the beautiful New England countryside would not be the normal picturesque drive down winding roads through rolling hills of lush green trees. Instead he would be enjoying another New England phenomenon, the summer storm. Known for it's abrupt violence, this one was proving no different than the norm. Mark was fighting heavy wind and rain most of the journey. Finally approaching his exit to complete his journey to Gary's house, Mark lost control of the 4Runner, hit the guardrail, tossing him violently around the cab and landing him in the oncoming traffic!

It was definitely more than an 'E' ticket ride at Disneyland! And it would most definitely be remembered and set this day off from all the rest in his life. But little did he know it was just the beginning of a totally new adventure in life. As the vehicle came to rest, he could hear a woman's voice. She was talking to him and telling him to turn off the engine. He reached for the keys and accomplished the task. She kept talking to him, encouraging him to talk to her and reassuring him help was on the way. Before he knew it, he was on his way in the ambulance, the woman alongside the road never seen by the highway patrol or emergency vehicle personnel. Could it have been his very own angel?

By the time Mark reached the hospital in Portland, Maine, he had lost over 50% of his blood. The 'E' ticket ride with the seatbelt had torn his left arm at the socket, allowing such great blood loss. Mark explained to the doctors that he was an organist and pianist and really needed them to save his arm. They whisked him into surgery.

All the while, Gary was at home preparing dinner for Mark's arrival. He began wondering what had happened to Mark, as he did not arrive at the planned hour. After a while, he was really quite worried. When the phone rang, it was an eery break to the sounds of silence. He was needed at the hospital as soon as he could get there! Off he went. As Mark awoke after surgery, Gary told him they had amputated his arm. And a new journey began — but first a little sleep.

Within the pages of this particular section, you will witness the faith of this man as he encountered the loss of his arm, the death of his father thousands of miles away from his hospital bed, and the long hours of recuperation and therapy. Lest you think this horrible tragedy has taken out one of church music's brightest stars, know beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is merely the beginning of great and wonderful things yet ahead for this man of God! Enjoy this clip from a young woman's journal after hearing Joyce Jones perform at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, just a few short months following Mark's accident:

But it wasn't over yet. We hardly needed to be directed to keep clapping... We could have brought the house down after such an encore. She came out a second time and took another bow. Then she said, "I have a special surprise for you all. I have a very dear friend who's here and if he would just start walking down here now I can start talking about him." Silence for a moment and then Mark Thallander stood up and started walking down the aisle in his straight manner. Now Dr. Jones had our complete attention. "Mark is a very dear friend of mine and I've known him for many years. He was in an accident recently and lost his arm but it hasn't stopped him from playing. I owe him some music..." - and at this point Mark has mounted the steps and is standing next to her. She gave him a hug and continued. "...Because I promised to write him something after his accident. But Mark really doesn't need me to write him any music because he can make more music with one arm and two feet than most of us ever could with two arms and two feet. I've asked him if he would conclude this concert for me." And with that he sat down to play an amazing fantasia on the Joyful, Joyful theme. With his one hand he flew up and down and up and down the keyboard and usually took the melody in the pedals. It was an arrangement he had done himself and it was amazing. Everyone was completely still, most with mouths wide open, many with eyes full of tears. Mark's was a strong testimony of the grace of God in the lives of his saints: that this fine organist could lose an arm and go through so many hard times, and still play this Joyful, Joyful as if he meant it. When it was over and the applause had died down it got very quiet... There wasn't much conversation. It was a very moving end to a concert. (written by sbeisner86) Article by Alicia Steinhaus

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