Published in The Ferndale Record, December 22, 2010
Last weekend I participated in the Garfield High School Symphony Orchestra’s “Messiah Sing-Along” at Seattle First Baptist Church. Some of my children make this event a holiday tradition and although each year I want to go and usually don’t, this time I decided to make it happen.
When hard rain falls in life, you realize what’s important, and this year I needed to sing praises for what I’ve got rather than kvetch about what I think I need.
I walked into the church and saw my two boys seated there. They weren’t facing me, but I knew it was them in that way mothers do, by their hair and the back of their necks—one wearing a burgundy shirt, and the other a creamy yellow one. My daughter-in-law and a close family friend were there too, and I took my place beside them.
Although the sing-along audience was mostly amateur, we sounded pretty good, and the orchestra of teenagers was astonishingly perfect. Singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” (which we got to do twice) always reminds me of the year in high school choir when I sang the tenor line of that song. The part still comes rushing back into memory, and I sing it out like I really know what I’m doing, even though I don’t.
It didn’t matter, though. Nobody was there to judge, just sing.
Times with my children are often too short and this was one of them. I drove home in a downpour that night to spend time with my teenager and as a bonus, got to see Paul McCartney perform on Saturday Night Live. It was a sweet day.
After a particularly trying week, I decided one night to eat precisely what I wanted for dinner—roasted tomato bisque soup with chunks of sharp cheddar cheese, homemade garlic bread, and Dr. Pepper. I noshed slowly, purposefully, gratefully, and was nourished physically and emotionally.
That night I chatted on the phone with my best friend who’s in a California hospital. Her health isn’t good, but her humor has never been better. We laughed like we hadn’t in many months. I felt comforted knowing despite her serious situation, she’s on the planet.
Later that night I watched “The A-Team,” the TV show from the 80s. Cheesy and impossible, yes. But it entertained me then and still does now. There was an odd satisfaction in allowing that time to revel in something silly.
I read something not long ago about “Messiah” composer, George Frideric Handel. After spending three weeks in 1741 working on this final masterpiece he said, “God has visited me.”
I believe him.
I haven’t composed sacred music that will be celebrated centuries from now, but I’ve seen and felt the scruff of my boy’s necks. I’ve remembered and heard familiar melodies both ancient and new, and savored the deep chuckle of a good friend.
I’ve eaten food that couldn’t have been better for the moment, and indulged in amusement that for whatever reason still makes me smile. In my darkness I’ve been helped by those seen and unseen.
I don’t have to be anyone famous or great to understand just a portion of what Mr. Handel was talking about.
In the simple details of an unextraordinary life, God has visited me, too.