Comfort and Joy

The songs were so familiar, I could sing them without a book. That’s the way I grew up. Singing out of a book. It seems old-fashioned now, as most churches have moved to the projected words on a screen. Don’t get me wrong, I like the change. Either way, as each song began, the words poured from my lips without any need for conscious recall.

“Hark, the herald angels sing…” The immediate emotional impact takes me by surprise. So many emotions. I miss my Little Granny. She’s been gone several years already, yet this song has transported me like a time machine. I am little again. Sitting in her living room. Such a small room, a tapestry-printed loveseat is the main seating option. There is the television which picks up only the network channels, across the room from my granddaddy’s recliner. There is a candy dish on the marble table, filled with hard candies that have stuck together from neglect, only disturbed when grandchildren visit or the occasional church member or neighbor drops by for a chat. And there, against the wall, is the piano. My Little Granny could play anything out of the song book. And for a moment, I am there, seated on the couch, listening to her play as her crackly voice sings the words.

I am brought back to a more recent past as the song transitions into another. “Silent night, holy night…” This was my favorite part of the Bering scripture and song service. I think this was the week of the year that highlighted best the beauty of our a cappella singing tradition. Christmas carols are meant to have harmonies, I think. At a small church like Bering, you could even make out the individual voices of some of the church members. That bass, that was Ed. The tenor was Bill. And the alto. Oh, the alto was my mother. The alto will always be my mother to me. And now, as we sing, my little girl is attempting the alto line. I change from soprano to alto to lend her some assistance. She is growing up in a different church now. And although it is not an issue of importance to God, I would really love for her to be able to sing alto. Somehow, maybe that will carry on some of the tradition. My tradition. Last year was my last year to lead that service at Bering. And although we love our community church that is becoming our new home, the song makes me yearn for the familiar voices.

“O come, all ye faithful…” My heart shifts back to the present, as my eyes scan the row which holds my precious family. Mom and dad are not here this year, as they are spending this Christmas with Jeremy, Kristy and the kids. Although I am happy to share, it is a poignant reminder that they will not be here forever. I feel for the first time, the weight of my mother’s absence. For the first time, I am the matriarch. It is almost a disconcerting feeling. I still feel like a little girl. But yet, I am not. The little girl is standing beside me, leaning in to snuggle under my arm. She strokes my skin and smiles at me. I am her mama. And as complex as that relationship can be, Christmas brings out the best in us all. I smile back at her and draw her in close to me, determined to give her beautiful memories of loving and being loved. One day, she will be the matriarch. She will be the one remembering.

Zeke is being held by Michael, and they both are singing heartily. Thankfulness fills my heart as I know that this place is nourishing my husband’s spirit. Zeke is beginning to read now and I can see his eyes scanning the screen for sight words that he recognizes. It seems like just yesterday I was pleading with God. “Please, let him talk.” I just wanted to hear “mama”, “dadda”, something. So many worries with this child. And then the Asperger’s diagnosis this year. It’s mild. But, it is not going away. Now, as I look at him, he turns his head and for a few seconds, our eyes lock. My beautiful boy. My heart is overflowing with love, love and concern, which always seem to go hand in hand.

I realize that there are tears welling up in my eyes now as the song medley is ending. I want to take out my phone and take pictures of Julia smiling at me, of Zeke cuddling up to Michael, of the love and the candles, but it seems out of place. These are precious moments of comfort and joy. The lights are coming back up and they are instructing us to extinguish our candles now. If only I could freeze time.

But that is not the way of life, is it? The challenge for all of us is to live each day with our hearts full of love and tenderness for the ones we hold dear. Not just on Christmas. May God help us to do just that.


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