Wednesday, February 08, 2012

from A Word of Grace for Your Monday-9/19/11

by Kent A. Hansen

Rummaging around the Word of Grace archives this weekend, I came across a 2001 message that was originally an entry in my journal during March of that year. It describes the last visit that I had with my parents in their own home before illness and the advance of years brought their lives on earth to a close in the glorious hope of eternity with Jesus Christ.

* * * *

"Would you like to take a nap?" my Mom asks her middle-aged son.

"No, I don't like to sleep during the day."

"Neither do I," says Dad.

"I never sleep during the day," I say, "unless I'm in a committee meeting. Then I only do it for anesthetic purposes."

Dad laughs.

I reach down in my briefcase and rustle past the work in progress and the work to be started and find my harmonica. I pull it out and blow a note or two.

"Oh, you brought your harmonica," Dad says. "I was hoping that you would."

He disappears into the bedroom and comes out with the Hohner "Goliath" harmonica that I'd given him many years ago. He sits down in his rocker opposite from me and we begin to play.

This is soft and easy music made by two men who could follow its melodic paths in the dark.

"Man," Dad says, "You know songs that I'd forgotten all about."

"I love the old hymns," I reply

"So do I and the new hymnals don't have the great old songs."

We play on.

Dad's baldhead glows bronze in the afternoon light of a warm March Monday. His big, gnarled hands grasp the harmonica and move it across his lips like he's eating corn on the cob.

Then I blow the four note ascent beginning "O Danny Boy."

"We're going to make Momma cry," Dad says.

We stop and replenish her Kleenex. Then we play on while Mom bawls and we grin and shrug. She always cries during that song. We'd be disappointed if she didn't.

On and on we play, thinking of the songs that explain our God to us, define our faith, stretch our hearts and remind us of God's love in the dark times. Dad and I share the gift of music like a loaf of fresh bread between two hungry friends. The notes flow through us and around us and burnish our memories and hopes to a warm patina.

Life has its way of returning us to the fundamentals and a 91-year-old father and a 47-year-old son playing hymns together on mouth organs is about as fundamental as it gets.

One of us leads, the other follows, the order dictated only by which one of us remembers the melody first.

Somewhere the secretaries in two offices are taking my phone messages and explaining my absence. It is Monday after all. Work beckons from the briefcase at my feet, but there is a transcendent power in worship that picks us up and sets us down in secret and holy places accessed by grace alone.

We forget the melody sometimes and start over unashamed. We wander off into other tunes. We soar and hush, and finally fade away.

Then Dad asks what he always asks at the end of these sessions. "Do you know this one?" He leads and I follow into a familiar song of our fondest hope. The words are held in our hearts, the melody brings them to mind.

My heart can sing when I pause to remember
A heartache here is but a stepping stone
Along a trail that's winding always upward.
This troubled world is not my final home.
The things of earth will dim and lose their value
If we recall they're borrowed for a while;
And things of earth that cause the heart to tremble,
Remembered there will only bring a smile.
But until then my heart will go on singing,
Until then with joy I'll carry on
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me home.
--Stuart Hamblen
Copyright 1958, Hamblen Music Co., Inc.


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