She sang with her whole body, this woman in the choir. I was just a child at Bethesda Lutheran Church. Sitting in the pew in front of the choir loft. The crowd was silent as she swished to the music stand. I know now that it was her nylons rubbing together, but then it seemed as if she were floating. She was more strapped in, than wearing that polyester dress. The fabric gripping each curve of her torso, rising up to the gold plated brooch on her shoulder. The organist began the intro, and I heard her breathe in. I could feel myself being pulled back with the intake. I turned around, resting my head on the wooden pew. It would not be enough to say she “sang” this song, this hymn, “The old rugged cross,” but more that this music rose from within her. It rolled, so majestic, through each ripple of that Lutheran polyester, gathering strength in her core, building through her heart, and then, like powerful lava flowed over the congregation. She said she would cherish the old rugged cross, and I, we, believed her.
I want to say her name was Doris. I’m sorry if that’s not right. But I can see her, to this day. Rising above us all, with this gift of song.
I don’t think I can recite most of the things we had to memorize. I can’t recall the sermons. But I remember the pure grace I saw with this woman. This unconventional beauty.
My mother is still waiting for a call of support from her church. It’s only been six years since she received her first diagnosis of cancer. But, at the same time, she has been given love. Friends who show up with cookies. Rides to doctor appointments. Beautiful cards. And books. Phone calls of laughter. Hugs of encouragement. Shared tears. For what is church, other than the kindness of people. The grace of the imperfect, rising up! I give thanks for each Doris willing to carry your burden for just a few moments. Moments that will last a lifetime.