A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dave's Deep Thoughts - The Unknown Song

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

It's usually not good to lose your song in the middle of the night,
except maybe in this case.
The tap on the shoulder came at 3:30am.
My eldest sister was making the rounds,
awaking her 3 siblings.
Three hours earlier we had laid our heads down to get some rest,
knowing that our dear mother would likely not make it through the night.
Six days earlier we had learned the news
that mom was in the midst of renal failure.
While we had journeyed with her
through her seven year battle with dementia,
it was a shock to know that it would be kidney failure
that would end her life on this earth.
And so, we brought her back to my home,
home to the farm where she was born and lived all of her almost 83 years.
Within two days, her four children were with her.
We were given a gift,
albeit a very bittersweet one.
4 days alone with our  mom.
4 days to tell her how much we loved her,
4 days to tell her how grateful we were for being a great mother,
4 days to let her know that it was alright for her to go.
4 days to walk her to heaven's gate.
If you have ever been given this gift of time with a departing loved one,
you know how both exhausting and amazing it is.
You know how you will never forget to treasure it.......
and how you never wish to go through it again.
My sister aroused us from the sofas and air mattresses on which we slept.
"I'm not getting a blood pressure", she said.
My sister, the nurse, had monitored her closely throughout these days,
letting us know how mom was progressing.
Within seconds, the four of us were gathered at mom's bedside.
That's when the song began.
It was my sister, the nurse, singing this simple four phrase melody.
I had never heard it before but it was very easy to sing.
"Sing with me, it seems to calm her", she said.
And so, the four of us began singing this simple tune.
And just as my sister had said,
it appeared to be reaching mom's spirit.
She didn't appear to be in pain,
but the breathing was now very labored and spaced.
Six minutes.
Six minutes of singing a song in the night.
Six minutes to hold the hand that had held our hands throughout life.
Six minutes for a lifetime of memories to flood our souls.
Six privileged minutes to usher her back to her home.
And then the last breath.
The song ceased.
Many things happen in those first minutes...
tears, hugs, the onset of a new reality.
Then one of asked,
"What was that song?"
My sister, the one who started the song, didn't know.
The other two didn't know.
Eventually all eyes fell upon me.
I was the musician in the family.
I had gone to school for music.
I had taken classes in melodic dictation.
"I can't remember it," I said.
All I could remember was that it had the name, Jesus, in it.
Apart from that,
this classically trained musician couldn't recall the simplest of tunes,
nor the rhythm, nor the words.
"Do you know what it felt like," I asked.
One of my siblings responded,
"Like there were others on the other side,
singing the same song,
singing mom over to them."
We all nodded in agreement.
There is no one that knows exactly
how each child of grace is welcomed back home.
Most of us would like to think that parents, spouses,
children, and other loved ones are the first ones to greet us.
Amidst my tears,
I began to chuckle.
The thought of my dad, who barely moved his lips
during every hymn of his lifetime,
singing his beloved bride to his side,
was a most peculiar but yet amazing thought.
What I do know
is that we were given a song for six minutes,
a song that was sung on both sides of the river,
a song that was given for an expressed purpose,
and then returned to its source.
We are told in the Scriptures
that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,
and that these witnesses are here to encourage us,
to bring us through difficult times,
to encourage us to flee from sin,
to cheer us on to live our lives
worthy of the grace that we have received from God.
As we have just celebrated All Saints Day,
know that beyond the limitations of time and space,
there is the great communion of all children of grace,
those who have preceded us,
and those who will follow us.
I do not pretend to fully understand it,
but I do fully embrace it.....
because for six minutes I was invited to join them in their chorus,
and because of that,
I will never be the same.
May you know, that you are never, ever alone in your walk.
And because of that, may your walk lead you back to the song. 
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance
the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus who is the pioneer and perfector of our faith,
Hebrews 12:1-2a
If the struggle you're facing is slowly replacing your hope with despair,
or the process is long and you're losing your song in the night,
you can be sure that the Lord has His hand on you,
safe and secure, He will never abandon you.
You are His treasure,
and he finds His pleasure in you.
From "the song "He Who Began"

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