Monday, May 22, 2017

All I Have Needed...

Great weekend. The Portara concert was wonderful. Everything went off without a hitch. So, today we make the 600 mile drive back home, back to our life in Short Pump.

The strangest thing happened to me in church yesterday. Patrick is a paid section leader in the choir at West End United Methodist church in Nashville. It meets in one of those old, stately buildings that feature grand stained glass windows and giant stone archways. There's that smell of furniture polish and musty carpeting so familiar to me from my childhood. The service at West End is highly liturgical, and the pulpit is hovered over by an imposing pipe organ, the kind that you feel in your chest at times. Towards the end of the service, the organ began blasting out the notes of Great is Thy Faithfulness, as the recessional. The congregation was invited to sing...all three verses.

...there is no shadow of turning with thee...

Music has a tendency, like smells, to evoke memories. As the words of this old hymn began ringing out in the great hall, a flood of them came to me...the musty taste of stale sugar cookies and kool-aid in cinderblock rooms during vacation bible school, the clink-clank of silverwear in the fellowship hall  while standing in line at a covered-dish supper.

...thou changeth not, thy compassions they fail not...

It had been so long since I had heard a crowd of people inside a church singing this old song from full-throated memory. It occurred to me that it had been one of mother's favorites. We kids would frequently hear her singing it while she did the dishes or ironed our shirts.

...as thou hath been, thou forever wilt be...

I began to feel a sense of great loss for some reason. The memories stirred to life by this hymn felt ancient, yet stillborn. They came from a place I can never again go, a time that only occasionally comes to life in a photograph or in the lyric of a song.

...Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see...

Then, suddenly my voice went silent. A tightness came to my throat. My mouth moved to form the words, but no words would come. My eyes became moist. It was as if I could actually see my mother standing at the sink, wearing her apron, humming the tune until she got to these words. It was at this moment when we could all hear her rich alto sing the words that I could not...

...all I have needed thy hands hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

The emotion startled me. Where had it come from, so powerful and intense? The second verse began and I quickly recovered, but when the chorus came back around, the heaviness in the throat returned. Once again, I couldn't form the words...

...all I have needed thy hands hath provided...

I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the human mind and the place that memory has in the heart of man. But, for me, music is often the catalyst. But, why this particular line, why these words? Perhaps because it perfectly reflected my mother's entire life on this earth.

...all I have needed thy hands hath provided...