Wednesday, December 21, 2011

praying with Sam

When I got to Mom's yesterday, she was in a state of agitation. She couldn't find her church newsletter. She couldn't remember the name of her minister.
"I remember Rev. H__" Mom said "I really liked him" (Rev H_ was from her church in the 1940's.) Mom needed to find her newsletter. "Tell me his name!" she yelled at me.
"Your church has a new interim minister, Mom, I don't remember his name."
"Well you go there too! Why don't you remember!" she barks.
"I don't remember his name." I don't correct her, I don't go to her church, I really don't remember.

Apparently one of the aides had been in her room earlier, to invite her to a worship service later in the afternoon.  Mom felt that she needed her newsletter as proof that she was a church member (?) or because the worship was being lead by someone from a different denomination than her own (?) who knows.

We join about a dozen other people in the parlor for Tuesday afternoon worship. Gathered around in a circle: Mom's neighbors, some staff, some family members. Somehow I end up across the circle from Mom, sitting between Anne and Sam.

We have the order of worship booklets and pages of Christmas carol lyrics. Long pauses throughout worship, while we all stop and help one another find the right page for the words or lyrics. "We're going to sing "Angels We Have Heard On High" on page eight." I fold over Anne's papers, I point to the beginning of the lyrics, she points to the wrong song, I point again, she points, I smile in acknowledgement. She gets lost on the page again, I point, running my finger along under the words. It is amazing how well our small group can sing. Some of these folks hardly mumble or talk, but they sure can sing.

I don't think Sam can read any more. But a lifetime of worship stays with him, he knows when to mumble the appropriate response and to hum along with the hymns.  During one of the prayers Sam takes my hand. I squeeze his back. After the prayer is over, he won't let go. There I am, my left hand is helping Anne follow the order of worship, my right hand is with Sam's.  Hanna hears our singing from across the hall and wanders into our circle, clutching her baby doll. It's like a bizarre dramatization of the scripture we've just heard, of Mary and her newborn son.

During communion the minister comes around the circle and asks each person if they want to partake. Mom begins a conversation about how in her congregation, she served everyone individual cups of grape juice. I'm laughing and rolling my eyes. Yes Mom, once upon a time you were the deacon who served. Now we're here in the "church of those gathered around the card-table in the parlor". I'm so grateful for this minister, who gave his afternoon, to lead us in worship. To tell us THE story that we've all heard a hundred times before, to sing carols we all know by heart.

We end worship with "Joy to the World", my left hand with Anne, my right in Sam's, smiling at my Mother, she is singing loud and clear. I can't sing, I'm all choked up.

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.

I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.


Emily said...

This is a great post. My mom remembers all the hymns too, though she mostly hums. She can still harmonize, even though she doesn't remember the name of the song.

She spent the last several days in the hospital with seizure-like symptoms (very scary) but when the sedation wore off and she began coming around, she was humming again: Sentimental Journey, and My Favorite Things. Will irony never cease?

Thanks for sharing.


Stacey said...

This is such a sweet post! I enjoyed reading it. It does amaze me how my mom doesn't remember what day it is from one minute to the next. But when an old hymn comes on, she has no problem lifting up her voice and singing along. She may not remember all the words, but she gives it a go and it is sweet to hear. What a special memory you have!

Elizabeth Wilder said...

I can hear your mother in my mind - always singing and teaching the old hymns.
The family thinking about all of you with love. Your email no longer the one I have so if you find time - would you please connect again.

Linda said...

Well this made me cry. God bless you for holding Sam's hand and pointing for Anne, and most of all for your love for the Savior who was enabled to touch them through you.