I sang in church on Sunday. Nothing unusual about that, I sing in church every Sunday I’m there. I love to sing, especially in worship. But this Sunday it felt … different. Special. More holy somehow.
I was in town helping my siblings prepare for Mom’s move to assisted living. Before she moved I wanted to take Mom to her church. It’s a sweet, small, mission-minded UMC on a historic site with pretty stained glass windows, a fantastic organist, a friendly Christ-following congregation and a pastor who faithfully preaches the Word. It reminds me of the church where I grew up.
Letting Mom out at the entrance, I parked the car. Inside I found Mom chatting with a group who had gathered at the entrance, excited to see her again. We made our way to the sanctuary, Mom moving slowly up the side aisle until she found her pew. She moved to the middle and I sat down next to her. As a child, each week I had followed her down a church aisle to a pew with enough space for our family. Back then her pace was confident, her steps sure. Now at 86, Mom is frail, gets out of breath quickly and needs the walker to go more than a few feet. She can’t stand for very long and she can’t sing while standing, but she still sings.
Hearing her sweet voice float up to me as I stood for the first hymn, I felt the rough edges softening on a place in my heart that had begun to grow calloused. There in the sanctuary I was reminded of God the Father’s infinite faithfulness. My Mom’s legacy involved raising me in a good church and doing her best to help me find Christ. Even after I graduated high school and despite my rebellious attitude, she never stopped asking me to go to church with her. When I finally met Jesus the night He rescued my soul, Mom was in the sanctuary sitting next to the spot I’d just left vacant to make a decision that changed my life forever.
With renewed gratitude and a heart more tender toward Mom’s current circumstances, I sat back down. We listened as the pastor shared scriptures on hope from Ephesians, Romans, Deuteronomy. He spoke of coming to Jesus if you want to live, and loving others as a way to show your love for God. I felt the familiar Light shining in my soul. I stood again to join my voice with the others, most of them closer to Mom’s age than mine, singing “As the Deer” and “The Church’s One Foundation.”
But it was the closing hymn that brought tears that threatened to spill. I sat with Mom for that one, knowing it was one of her favorites – “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” (she prefers the Willie Nelson rendition). The last verse begins “When this feeble life is o’er ... .” I sensed keenly our brief humanity. A moment like this was a treasure, a gift for now and for later after we’ve both claimed our heavenly home. Resting my arm on the pew behind Mom I listened to her sing, my own voice not working because of the lump in my throat.
Mom is moved in to her new apartment now and I’m back home, each of us processing in our own way this huge life change. But that treasured moment remains lodged in my heart, guiding my own closer Walk.