Dianne Wilkinson’s family has confirmed that she passed away earlier this week. She was one of a kind. I don’t know if I’ve ever known someone with a bigger personality or a bigger heart. It was such an honor to work with her to create her autobiography.
Her songs kept the cross central and kept Heaven always in view. She knew the Bible well and used more of it in her songs than most writers. But almost always, wherever one of her songs started, it ended at the Cross or in Heaven, or both.
She was one of my three greatest songwriting influences. I first learned to explore Biblical passages deeply in song from Michael Card’s songs. John Newton’s songs also explored Biblical passages deeply, and showed me hymnwriting technique. Her songs had great technique and deep Biblical reflection, but the unique thing they taught me was how to look for the big idea that stirs the heart and makes our spirits soar. Her greatest songs soar in ways few other songs ever have; perhaps none more so than her most beloved song, “We Shall See Jesus,” which I have featured here.
But what I learned from my other two songwriting influences was from a distance. She granted me not only the great privilege of telling her story but of writing six songs with her. Three have been released:
Yet You Call
Because He Loves His Bride
Somewhere East of Eden
She was such a gifted teacher; whether teaching the Bible through song or teaching songwriting technique through example or direct mentorship. I’m one of probably hundreds of writers who she helped.
And so her influence will extend long into the future. We see her direct influence through the great songs she has left us. But her indirect influence is wider than we can ever know, and not just through writers but through those whom her songs helped lead to saving faith or to a deeper faith.
I doubt her impact will only be felt on earth. In the hours of interviews we spent working on her autobiography, she was excited about the songs she’d written in the past. But I’m pretty sure she was never more excited than when she looked to the future. She simply couldn’t wait to write psalms with David and hymns with the great hymnwriters of the past! And probably she already is.
But greater than anything else, she finally gets to see Jesus.