Saturday, October 27, 2012

The People Sang

In one home dedicated to the care of Alzheimer's patients, the pianist who joins me is blind,  Therefore, we typically do not use our monthly song sheets, but rather I depend on a small Rock of Ages hymnal.  If I spot a hymn that I can sing,  will ask the pianist if he knows it, and often he does.   Together we find hymns that he knows the music to and that I have the words to.  We also have several old favorites that we know we can always fall back on, including some of his solos.  Yet, as meaningful as "Amazing Grace" is, as I was driving over that morning, I was thinking that I really needed a break from it.
As I perused the small hymnal, conveniently compiled in alphabetical order, I looked to see if "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee," was there. As I was about to ask the pianist if he knew it, I spotted "Joy to the World."  I suggested we sing it, and we had a lively rendition.  Several more residents joined us. The room where we gather is small, and by the time we had reached the end of the hymn, the room was quite full.   
I could not resist picking another Christmas carol.  Then one more.  I asked the residents if this was silly - this singing Christmas carols in October. Several responded with a resounding, "No! Let's keep going!"   
Just before communion, we sang "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful."  As I moved about the room offering the wafer and the cup, the pianist repeated the carol by playing a very simple, quiet melody line.  I heard one voice singing. Then another. Eventually there were several voices quietly singing.  It was such a beautiful moment because neither the pianist nor I were singing.  From that deep wellspring of memory and devotion, the people sang.  I was so touched I could barely keep going.  Yet, I did, and every person in the room, those who had come well dressed and those still in bathrobes, took communion.         
We finished up with "Go Tell It on the Mountain,"  amid much hand clapping and laughter.   Carol said, "We should sing these everyday!" She has a very fine ear and loves to sing.  She will often throw her head back and sing with an abandonment that I envy.  Sister Juliette, whose tremors sometimes seem ready to overtake her small body completely, quietly exclaimed, "Glorious. Christ is with us."  We had moved from our separate identities as pianist, residents with Alzheimer's, and a pastor, into a community that was experiencing the great mystery that Christ continues to come, and Christmas happens any day where there is love.