Canticle of Christmas – In Defense of the Church Choir

Church Choir - Randolph Caldecott 1875

After a lovely family Christmas gathering this year my father decided he wanted to watch a video of an old Christmas cantata from the church he ministered at for 29 years. I must admit there was a split second when I couldn’t believe we were going to put in an old VHS tape of a choir from years ago but we were all missing my mother and welcomed the opportunity to watch the joy on her face as she sang praises during her favorite time of year. I was immediately transported back to another time. A time where my mother was still with us lifting up her lovely voice to God. A time where my father could still walk as he jumped up on the platform to address his church. A time where a group of believers came together and embodied community. Where trusted friends stood near my mother, ready to help her if she lost her place due to her mind being effected from the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. A time where a stool had been pulled up for a dear friend, waif thin and weak from cancer but still wanting to be part of the choir. A simpler and perhaps more joyous time. A time where community seemed to ring more true than what we call community today.

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Awakening to Beauty

Balthasar van der Ast Stilleven met schelpen en herfststijloos 1593-1657

It’s that time of year when our senses awaken again to beauty. Though winter has its own beauty, there is just something about spring. New life, new growth and warmth, all come together to somehow make us feel alive again after the long, dark and cold days of winter. Every time I see redbuds coming out in the spring, I cannot help but think of my mother.
She adored redbuds and every spring her enthusiasm never waned for their bright beauty and the vernal hope of spring. That woman loved beauty. Her entire life, she loved beauty. Even when she was in the middle of her battle with Alzheimer’s, she was still awake to the beauty around her. Whether it was singing a hymn, or filling her home with little trinkets that she found lovely even in her confused state… she was constantly surrounding herself with beauty even at the end.

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Survival Celebration

I was held in your world that night
absurdity reigned
and I had nowhere to run
no way out
stuck only with the fear
the love
the aching round my heart
faced with strangers
a laughing girl child
who made it plain
she knew you better than I
it was torture
watching your descent into madness

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Gas Stations After Dark

While digging through some of her old poems, Tina Gregg discovered this particularly timely one for today. It was written late at night, still in anger, after returning home from an evening out. It was 17 years ago, but it could have been written almost any night.

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Traversing the Shadowy Lands of Grief

I have spent months in a shadowy land between life and death, Here and There. Walking between worlds. I have come to believe that those who grieve are only partly in this world for a while. A part of them continually longing for their loved one on the other side. We are not sure how to live in a world without them or even if we really want to. We see eternity and the other side differently now, and going there looks so much better than before. As most of us get older we start having to say more goodbyes. As we grieve we exist only half alive, in a fog, surviving until we find the will to be fully present in this life again.

I understand grief more fully now. Nothing in life could have prepared me for losing my mother. Not my counseling degree, not the devastating loss of my sweet baby I never got to meet face-to-face, and not the ten long years of slowly saying goodbye to my mother while watching her diminish, and not the pain of the first time she didn’t know me anymore. I see clearly now why there were grief observances throughout history for those who mourned. We live in such a hurried culture that wants everything to be glossed over and things to move as quickly as possible. Grief cannot be hurried, but mourners are expected to behave as though it can.

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