The joy of sharing breakfast with my daughter this week was tempered by April’s increased weariness in her cancer battle. As my husband drove me home, I looked through the windshield with moistened eyes. Then, prompted from a deeper place, I began to sing, quietly and a bit off key, to my unsettled soul. Over the years I had learned the power of a lullaby comes from a quiet heart, not talented vocal cords.
My lack of singing skills hadn’t mattered to my five children when they were small. Knowing the power of song to soothe an infant once made me a military hero to a planeful of Marines. While flying home from Okinawa, I watched as a nervous young mother tried to soothe her unhappy baby. As a growing number of military heads frowned toward the disturbance, the mom’s tension mounted, only increasing the infant’s protests.
No longer able to sit idly by, I unbuckled my seatbelt, made my way up the aisle to the by now frantic woman. “May I help?” Even as I asked she passed me her red-faced protestor. Thankfully, the baby, worn out by the time I took her, quickly relaxed and fell asleep as I swayed in the aisle and sang. Fearing I’d break the spell if I gave the baby back to the exhausted mother, I gently perched on the edge of the nearest empty seat, continuing my medley for several more miles across the Pacific.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock to singing is the fear we lack the ability. When a fifth grade music teacher informed me I could not sing, I believed him. His critique robbed me of confidence for decades. But a friend’s request pushed me into soloing for an hour and a half…
“Will you be my support when I have my C-section?” a young friend requested. I agreed and asked her what I could do to make her surgery less scary. “Just be with me,” she replied. Determined to do whatever would bless Christina, I entered the operating room, covered in a green gown and looking a bit like Kermit the Frog.
The doctors had already begun the procedure, so I quickly crossed the room and sat at a bar stool next to her head, carefully avoiding even a tiny glance below her chin. I was prepared to read scripture, even pray, but I was not prepared for Christina’s request. “Can she sing?”
I arrested the protest as it rose from my throat, “NO, I cannot sing!” But I had promised her I’d do whatever she asked. So, I sang. For an hour and a half I warbled hymns from my Methodist youth, downloaded upbeat praises, recalled spiritual sanbi in Japanese, and finally, when I ran out of memorized melodies, made up on-the-spot serenades, somewhat in rhyme and loosely in three-quarter time.
We never outgrow our need for the strength of a song to settle our souls, whether we’re nine months old or ninety plus years. My mother, at the age of ninety-three, became increasingly unable to live alone. Happy for my company, plus the homemade meals I served her, she moved in with me. After decades of living far apart, we both rejoiced in our time together.
Sadly though, as the months passed, my brilliant mother, the valedictorian of her high school class, became increasingly confused. Her dementia brought panic attacks. “Carol! Carol!” she would cry for me in terror. After running quickly to her spot on the sofa, my question, “What’s wrong, Mom?” only heightened her fear. Not knowing what to do, I shared my quandary with a wise friend who counseled, “Just sing to her.”
Well, I was no David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, and Mom was no King Saul, (except at 5’ 9” she stood a head taller than I), but I decided to try singing, sans lyre. The next time Mom panicked, I ran to her, wrapped my arms around her and began to sing, “Jesus loves me.” Faster than a plummeting elevator, Mom’s anxiety descended. She even joined me, albeit haltingly, after the first few words.
Although you may never face a child’s cancer battle, or dare lift lullabies on a jet plane, or be requested to sing during a surgery, or need to soothe your panicked parent, or can’t carry a tune in a bucket, sing anyway! Music not only triumphs over mourning, but can calm a troubled heart. It helps keep faith in focus and prepares us for joining Heaven’s choir!
"Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving,
and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms."