|Candace, Mom, Bradley and me before church 1971|
I have sung the hymn, 'How Great Thou Art' hundreds of times. It was a favorite hymn of both of my parents and is one of my favorites as well. Recently at church we sang a version of the hymn that I love. It is a contemporary rendition, that begins with 'How Great is Our God' and transitions into 'How Great Thou Art'. It melts me. As I often do when singing in church, I closed my eyes. I like to forget that I don't have a particularly pretty singing voice and that I am surrounded by other people. I want to focus on what I am singing and Who I am singing to, virtually impossible with my eyes open.
While singing this amazing song, I was taken by surprise when I suddenly could picture myself as a little girl singing this same song, reading the words from a red hymnal, standing with my dad, sister and brother. I could almost hear my mother's strong voice coming from the choir loft. I could picture myself as I was then, in my Sunday best, which meant I was wearing a dress from Sears with white tights.
As I continued to sing, I could see myself again, this time at seventeen, in the same church, standing with my mother, brother and sister, singing the same beautiful song at my father's funeral.
These memories were so powerful I thought I might start to weep. I didn't want to leave those memories, they made me feel so close to my childhood self and particularly my dad who has been gone for so long now. However, there was no way I wanted to cry in church. I did the only thing I could think of, I opened my eyes. I reminded myself that I am a grown woman. I wasn't in my hometown church with it's uncomfortable pews and beautiful organ music. I was in my church, the church of my adulthood, which is in a movie theater, with guitars and drums! I had to snap myself out of my trip down memory lane.
I didn't cry but it was a close call. Those memories stayed close to me for the remainder of that Sunday. It made me miss my parents and those days of growing up. More than sadness, the missing made me feel grateful to have had a family worth missing. Grateful for the church of my childhood and the church of my adulthood, where the congregation is like family who celebrate life's best moments with you and grieve with you in it's worst. I also felt grateful for the power that a song can hold. It's not just hymns either. Someday, remind me to tell you how 'Crocodile Rock' can really take me back....