I belong to a choir now. I can see that you’re surprised. I’m surprised myself. All my life I’ve wanted to sing, but it’s been generally conceded that my singing voice would compare unfavorably to that of the frog I recently evicted from my guest room.
I’m a “sit over there. Perhaps we’ll think of something later” sort of singer, but this is a church gospel choir. I think they have to let you in. I’ve been on my best behavior because I believe that if there’s something you want to do, you should keep looking for a way to do it. It’s a very satisfying experience, and I’ve met some great people.
Marjory Buffo, for instance, loves to sing so much that she’s a member of our choir and another church choir. Marjorie is tall and beautiful. She has a lovely smile, a terrific sense of humor, and an aggressive cancer which doctors predict will end her journey on Earth within a matter of weeks.
While Marjory was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, having fluid drained from her lung among other engrossing activities, she began to think that the medicine that would help her most would not come from any doctor’s prescription.
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What she needed was to hear the gospel songs she loves so much.
She says she can’t remember whose idea it was, but the hospital gave permission for members of our gospel choir from St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood to visit and sing. Marjory sent a list of songs she’d like to hear, ones that perhaps she could sing, too.
I think some of us were more than a little worried. Would we break down? Would she?
Marjory was to be brought down to the hospital chapel for the impromptu concert, but at the last minute she just wasn’t well enough for even that short trip. Members of her family and people close to her were gathered around her, and her bed was wheeled to the door of her hospital room so she could sit up and greet her friends. We stood in the hall while patients and staff gathered around.
So we sang. We sang “Jesus is A Rock In A Weary Land.” We Sang “Spirit of the Living God.” We sang joyful songs with lots of hand clapping. Somehow, it was a happy time. It seemed nearly a miracle when Marjory joined in, singing with enthusiasm and joy.
When we finished the songs on the list, we sang childhood songs everyone knew, such as “This Little Light of Mine.”
Marjory and her husband, Gary, linked hands and smiled at each other in that casual tender way that long married couples have when they’re sharing something special.
Of course tears were shed, but there was still that incredible feeling of joy.
Maybe you had to be there, but you’ve got to believe me when I say there was a miracle in that hour of song and laughter. “A life-changing moment,” a nurse said.
“I always wanted to go skydiving,” Marjory reflected to Gary later as the gurney rolled her out of the hospital to home and hospice care. “But the closest I ever came was wearing shoes with four-inch heels.” Sometimes you have to settle for less than you hoped for but you never give up.
“Now, you’ll sing at my funeral,” she said to each of us, as we said goodbye, as if she was issuing the invitation to a delightful tea or gala event we might all eagerly anticipating. I understood that she was telling us that the singing mustn’t stop just because she couldn’t be here.
My friend, best-selling author and jollyologist Allen Klein wrote in his book, “The Healing Power of Humor,” that when his wife Ellen was terminally ill with cancer, she’d still find strength to poke him in the ribs and say “Hey, stop being so morose. I’m still here. We can still laugh together.” I second that.
“How Can I Keep from Singing?” another old song asks. The answer is that we can’t keep from singing, that we shouldn’t try, that we must hold hands and sing together. We’re still here, and we’re still together even on the darkest days.
At the beginning of this season of celebration and gratitude, that’s a gift of true thanksgiving.