When I was younger and stood beside my grandmothers (one singing in Illinois or later Florida and the other singing in Connecticut) I would be surprised ~ each time ~ when they would cry while singing the hymns in church. Each time, I would be surprised. Dorky (my dad's mother in CT) always sang an octave lower (which I am now doing) and she would sing out loudly, with tears streaming down her face. Bobbee (my mom’s mom) would start to sniffle somewhere by the first chorus and be searching for a Kleenex and dabbing her eyes for the remainder of the hymn. Each time. Double or triple at Christmas.
And I find myself doing the same.
This morning I lasted until the final hymn, “What wondrous love is this.” I don’t have Dorky’s gift; I lose my voice. John Brogan was next to me this morning, sharing the hymnal. He snuck a glance when my voice dropped off, gave me a kind, knowing smile and kept on singing.
The last line of that hymn this morning was “When from death I’m free, I will sing.” And I think those words hold a lot of what brought my tears this morning. I think some of my crying is about grief: all the deaths, great and small that hold me; the loss of both parents in these past years; my struggles with the church; and the disappointments of things going on these days. All these things are about the tears and more, I suspect. The tears are also about remembered strength: from the communion of saints, from the folks who believe in me, from love of Linda and family and friends.
I give thanks for my grandmothers’ tears, for being able to cry in church, and for John Brogan’s voice that continued on for me.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.