When I was in middle school, we got the call on the Saturday before a holiday that my mother’s father had died. My mother had a children’s choir program the next morning, so there was no way we could take off for Lone Star immediately, about a five and a half hour drive from Houston if you’re going the speed limit…….. My mother, instead of calling everyone and postponing the program (which everyone would have understood), got up like a champ and conducted the hell out of that program. It is one of the times that I remember her as a true hero, because she was able to put away her grief for a few hours, an impossible feat, and get it handled….. literally the Olivia Pope of choir directors.
I wish I could remember more specific details, like what the program entailed and whether my sister was a soloist (I think she was, actually, and that might have gone into her decision as well). But the take-home message is just how much my mother worked with grace under fire. Unlike my mother, my grandfather did not die suddenly. He’d been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the aggressive kind where it started with his throat muscles and worked down so that he could not eat without a feeding tube. Because of this, my grief was tempered, because I had a long time to process the situation… unlike my mother, who we learned from her autopsy that it was indeed an embolism that blew in her leg which killed her almost instantly.
Our family friend, Suzanne Wales, came to the funeral and played the piano, and accompanied me as I played Amazing Grace on my trumpet. As usual, I was calm during crisis with an immense delayed reaction. Perhaps I take after my mother more than I thought.
These memories are why I am praying for my choir director today. She has made the decision to show up and conduct despite receiving the news that her father died. Grace under fire just as my mother was all those years ago. We have bonded over losing our mothers recently, and knowing her is painful and cathartic. The only time I ever really cry at church anymore is when she is playing a piano solo, because she sounds so similar to my mother that it gets me every time.
Praying for her is my way of letting art flow through me, whether it’s hers, mine, or ours as a collective choir. There is nothing in the world that would keep me from church today, because I know her pain. I have seen it with my own eyes. I can only hope that my love for her shines in them, because on days like this, it’s important for her to see it. She has supported me beyond measure as I sing through my own grief and pain. Now it’s my turn to return that favor.
Please join me in prayer, all over the world, because the art of prayer is the thread of humanity that runs through us all, the art that sustains us through good wishes for others in their distress. I know I have felt all sorts of energy from the rest of the globe, from the UK to Australia to Romania to Africa to Scandinavia. All I ask today is that you send it her way, too.