Thursday, December 17, 2009
Lift Up Your Voice
There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats.
Last night, I went to choir practice at church for the first time in 20 years.
The first ten years, I missed because we hadn't found a church that made us feel at home. The second ten years, I missed because I didn't want to take time away from Kiersten.
It took about 15 seconds for the rest of the choir to figure out that I was "that" Mrs. Sump. You know; the one who just lost her little girl. Poor thing; I don't think I could be here. They welcomed me with hugs and assurances that I would do just fine, and whatever I could do, I could do, and don't worry; most of the rest of the altos don't know the parts for the Christmas Concert pieces either.
The compassion and pity was a bit overwhelming. It felt condescending. I thought I might have to leave. It was that hard to be there.
The reason I had come there in the first place was that I had made an agreement with Father Charlie. In a completely unconventional moment, he made a confession to me, while I was making my confession prior to Kiersten's funeral: "I've never done this before. I've been a priest for 30 years, and I've never had to bury a child like this before. And you can see grace here and I just see evil. I don't know how to do this." And then he started to cry. I had made him promise me, then and there, that he would not cry during Kiersten's eulogy. "I have to follow you up there, and if you cry, I'm going to cry and then I won't be able to talk, and we'll never get through this. So you can't cry up there." We pinkie-swore that we'd hold each other together.
He almost lost it. I heard his voice catch at the beginning of the eulogy, but he paused, calmed himself and rose to the occasion. It was a beautiful, heartfelt, uplifting tribute and I was extremely grateful for his words and his strength. I caught him afterward. "I thought I lost you for a minute there."
He smiled. "You owe me, now. You have to join the choir."
So there I was, promising the group that if I couldn't find my way well enough through the music, that I would not embarrass them by actually singing at the Christmas prelude. And then the actual rehearsal started and it was like riding a bicycle. All the music came back, and I found myself lifted up and comforted by the words, the technical points, the joining together of voices in praise. We floated through the Christmas portion of The Messiah and an adaptation of Greensleeves that was new to me but just lovely. Lots of traditional carols that I knew as well as my own name. I struggled with two a capella pieces, but I think I can master those in the next ten days. I found that I really hadn't forgotten how to do this, and for two hours, my heart was glad.
As we broke up, they all came and hugged me again, but differently this time. This time, it was in welcome. "That's a helluva set of pipes you have there, sister," The director winked at me. "I think this is going to be a good thing for us all."
I think so, too.