the nest

the nest

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Why I sing.

Saturday morning brought news that a terrible tragedy struck my extended family. My beloved Godparents, Aunt Helen and Uncle Doug, had been killed walking from their hotel in Georgia to a restaurant for dinner. Throughout the day, word was spread to family members far and wide and eventually their children posted on Facebook, giving us the ok to begin sharing condolences, memories, photos, grief.

I suspect that many of us are still in shock and will be for some time. We are spread all over the country so who is able to gather and when is unknown. While many of us are "alone" as we grieve, we are in good company and are never really alone. I know that when we gather, there will be singing.

My Dad comes from a family of 9 children, 8 who survived to adulthood. They did not have an easy life - many children, little money - raising a family in the 20's, 30's and 40's was difficult for so many. The stories that I love and remember center around the dinner table (there was always room for a friend even though money was scarce), the church (it was a central part of family life), and music.


My Dad tells a story of being a very little boy with curly hair, sitting on the front steps in his Mama's hat, singing at the top of his lungs. He and his siblings sang in the church and school choirs through their growing up years. He and Helen (or Honey Anne as she was called) sang "A Bushel and a Peck" in a school talent show. They sang. Together.

As I was growing up, the extended family grew too and eventually there were 25 grandchildren. As one of the younger cousins, it was easy to get lost - Helen and Doug somehow managed to make me feel so loved and important. They reminded me that I belonged. The music continued. I can close my eyes to this day and picture my Dad and Helen singing "Morning Has Broken," harmonizing effortlessly. We camped together over the years in various places and with various combinations of the families. There was always singing around the fire. I learned my first "naughty" song at one of these fires. "My Father was a Fireman..." If you know the song, you'll get the joke. If you don't you'll have to ask me someday. As a little girl, I just listened to and sang along with the incredible harmonies created as the song progresses. As a 20-something with a husband and 2 children, we sang this again at a long awaited reunion in Wyoming. Jeff has never let me forget that I did not "get" the joke until that year! I can hear Helen and Doug's laughter as I remember the day.

Reunions and gatherings for weddings, funerals, graduations, were all excuses to have a family choir. You haven't heard the Table Grace sung until you hear my family sing it! I can see Helen singing "On Eagles Wings" with other family and friends at my wedding. Such treasured memories.

We made music. Although the gatherings are much further between and everyone shifts as my Dad's generation passes away and more Great-Grandchildren are added, we still do. A small handful of 100 or so members of this family make music for a living. For the rest it is simply a part of what we do and who we are. We sing.

This is why I sing. We sing to celebrate. We sing to pray. We sing to grieve and we sing to laugh.

With a family as large and spread out as mine is, it is inevitable that we have widely divergent views on religion and politics. We cross the spectrum and while we are interconnected by blood, there are times when the differences loom large.

Music is the thing that will pull us together time and again. When we are singing and creating harmony together, our differences fade away even for a moment. We are united as we create something magical.

I want every child to have this. I want every family to be able to connect with a silly or sacred song. We change the world when we sing. We make it better. Singing is free. I do the work I do because every family can be a musical family. It's not about perfection or talent or any of that. It's about simply doing it. Singing together.

"I will sing to the Lord as long as I live..." those words from "O Lord God" ring in my ears now. They are treasured words from my college years and have continued to bring me comfort and joy since then. Like my Aunt, my Dad, and so many members of my family, I will continue to sing as long as I live. I will continue to create opportunities for others to find their voice and sing. I will sing with babies. I will sing with grandfriends. I will sing in joy and in sorrow.

I will sing because it is what we do.