I am visiting my parents in Minnesota, but not just for fun. My dad had two strokes in the last week. I had to come, even though my mother called me after I booked the flight and emphatically explained that they were FINE, that all was well. I came.
He spent a couple of days in the hospital, but he's home now and trying to sort out this new normal. I have destroyed the clean kitchen here in my childhood home repeatedly, cooking way too much food. He tries to eat the tons of food. And he tries not to get frustrated when we cajole him to get rid of catalogs from 1983, but he also shows me the look-book from his Army basic training in 1953 and tells stories about the people he was with in the photos.
It's good. And it's hard.
I find myself folding laundry, peeling potatoes and washing dishes set to music in my head. Actually not just any music. Most of what plays along as the soundtrack to my emotional shoreline of waves washing in and waves washing out are hymns.
I grew up in a small Unitarian Universalist Fellowship--the hymns I remember from being a kid are "Morning Has Broken" and.....well, yeah. That's all I remember. We probably sang others. But I don't remember them. As a young adult I came back to get married and then to have my children dedicated and then to just come back to church. That's when I started to build this library in my heart of hymns that would rise up at just the moment I needed them.
The first time I remember this happening I had three young children and we were all at my parents' house, I think we were doing yard work. I remember walking through the back yard with an arm full of tree branches and hearing in my head "I must answer yes to life" over and over again.
Hey, it was a tough time! Then the verse came to me, it's kind of a plodding hymn in some ways, but it's perfect for working to:
Just as long as I have breath, I must answer, "Yes" to life;
though with pain I made my way, still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, "Yes." to life
The hymns came more frequently as the years went by. If you sing a hymn a few times a year it soaks into the resource library of your soul. Of course I have "Spirit of Life" which calls the spirit of love to come and sit with me during times of hopelessness and loss.
"Sing in the heart, all the stirrings of compassion."
The somg most present for me today is one we heard in our Q4M worship this week "All Will Be Well" by the Rev. Meg Barnhouse and while it's not in any of our hymnals (yet!) , it is one of the best songs for keeping on keeping on when things are hard. I have plucked my way through the chorus of this on my guitar, teaching it to groups of children and adults--and they have told me that it helps. It helps. It does.
All will be well, all will be well all manner of things--will be well.
No, those aren't Meg Barnhouse's words exactly, they're from Dame Julien of Norwich. But Meg set them to this tune with a beautiful haunting melody and a cadence that matches walking. Or peeling potatoes. And then she wrote verses to explain them. It really does help.
So that's what I did today. I peeled potatoes, and made a way too big batch of homemade beef stew, even though I've been a vegetarian for 15 years, no I didn't eat it, but my dad did. My loved ones here in Minnesota did. As I worked the hymns of my faith bubbled up and walked with me. They bolstered my strength and centered my soul and said:
"baby girl. you are holy"
and reminded me:
"though these sheltering walls are thin, may they be strong to keep hate out, and hold love in."
May it be so for me and you and my dad and my mom and my family and your family and every single broken and lovely person on this planet.
Big, fat, rockin' holy AMEN!