#105 – Singing our Hearts Out

Sue Clemmer Steiner and Martha Derstine Clemmer in 1996

This photo of my 91-year-old Mom and me singing our hearts out in 1996 is one of my favorites of the two of us.

It’s probably a Christmas photo, taken in my brother Jim and Ethel’s living room, rather than an Easter photo. But the singing reminds me that Easter felt very different to me in 1996. Most years, my colleague or I preached the Easter sermon at the church we served.  Easter was a joyful, exuberant, energetic Sunday featuring  lots of flowers and a special choir and some sort of dramatic reading.

But Easter was different that year.  It was the first Easter in nine years during which I was not serving a church.  I had resigned from my first congregation, and was in fact “between churches.” I knew that no exuberant Easter worship service of the type I was used to leading could assuage my grief.

So I decided on something totally different.  Sam and I drove to Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with my Clemmer family. And I chose to celebrate Easter morning with my Mom and other “regulars” in the chapel at Rockhill Mennonite Community, where my Mom lived.  There were flowers of course, and a low-key reading of the resurrection story.   The sermon didn’t need to be innovative or try to connect with people who came to church only once or twice a year.

The tone of the service in the nursing home chapel was just what my spirit needed that Easter. The singing was hearty, with piano accompaniment of not-too-rousing old favorites, such as The Strife is O’er. Mom and I especially enjoyed the singing, and we sang enthusiastically.

Then I noticed.  In the photo, Mom has a walker. Now Mom is gone.  And these many years later, my niece and I are the Clemmers with a walker. I expect to use mine mostly outside as spring weather comes on, since some days my walking is very slow and my balance is not good.

It cheers me somehow to think that Mom and I are both singing our hearts out in the photo. Our need for such a device doesn’t keep either one of us from singing heartily.

I’m thankful that I and other Clemmers learned to sing at Singing School (my grandfather and father), men’s chorus (my brother), Christopher Dock Mennonite High School (me and others), Souderton Mennonite and Rockhill Mennonite churches (many of us) – and my brother’s living room!

The 19th-century hymn ( #580 My life flows on in Hymnal: A Worship Book) says it all for me (altered slightly):

“My life flows on in endless song, amidst earth’s lamentations
I catch those clear, surprising tones that hail a new creation….

No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since love is Lord of heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing?”
(on Easter weekend or anytime).

Brother Jim Clemmer and father Lester M. Clemmer in 1989

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Was there a time in your life when you couldn’t celebrate Easter in your usual way because of life circumstances? How did you mark the day?
  2. If you enjoy singing, where did you learn it?
  3. Do you, or does anyone close to you, use a walker or other such device? How have you incorporated it into your joy of life?

Next week: TBA


14 thoughts on “#105 – Singing our Hearts Out

  1. Such a thoughtful and honest reflection, especially for Good Friday when we remember the One who also walked a path he would rather have avoided carrying a burden too heavy to bear alone.
    May the songs, stories and memories of Good Friday and Easter nurture your spirits throughout this season, dear friend.

    Muriel Bechtel
    515 Langs Dr., Unit J,
    Cambridge, ON
    N3H 5E4
    Home telephone: 519-219-3344
    Cellphone: 226-338-6915

    Every sunrise brings the promise of a new beginning.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Blessings to you for your positive attitude, Sue. Cherish the memories. If you listen carefully as you pass by  our door you might hear the strains from the Easter hymns sung by the Mennonite Hour Singers as recorded on Sing Them Over Again.  I’m always drawn to that CD and one of the Messiah, especially at Easter and Christmas. May this Easter season give you and Sam joy and peace.Greetings from Harvey.Warmly,Arlene


  3. Thank you again for this reflection. As one who is in between it is a welcome acknowledgement of the season of in between and how discombobulating that is

    But life flows on …
    Blessings to you

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Sue, for such a positive attitude in the midst of your changing situation. I, too, learned singing in singing school. Losing my singing voice, while difficult, offers me an opportunity to pay more attention to the words as others sing. My most favourite hymn, My life flows on, confirms human disabilities do not “shake my inmost calm”. Blessings of the season to you and Sam.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love those pictures! I love to sing also, sang around the piano as a child, the songs I learned at
    church come to me early in the morning and I can almost hear the chorister who is leading. I learned
    to sing alto from Marie (Souder) Shisler at the piano. The song was “Year’s I spent in Vanity and
    Pride” and I was 5 or 6.


  6. Thank you Sue! You are an inspiration…finding the positive and the joy of singing in the midst of your transitions. Easter blessings to you and Sam.


  7. Easter for me, Sue, is joy, longing, grief, more special than all the other seasons in the Christian calendar. The best memories of childhood, the rituals in my liturgical church days, the music, the dark and the light. It was also a time one year when I knew that my marriage was over, and in other years when I experienced more longing, loneliness – when family, and community ties were absent. It is a gift to be reminded of it all.
    As for walkers, you made me recall our Great Aunt Helen. I came across her in uptown Waterloo one day pushing her walker along King Street, a long elegant scarf wound round her neck and the walker basket full of packages and tulips — almost looking as if she was making a break for it! Easter blessing to you and Sam! Aways thankful for your words.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Sue,

    Ada Bauman from St. Jacobs Mennonite would like her own personal copy of your book of blogs. I wasn’t sure how to connect the two of you. Her daughter-in-law, Sonia Bauman, gave me her email address. Could I leave up to you to make a contact with her. I can’t find the address that I used originally to buy a personal copy and one for the church library.

    I look forward to your bi-weekly blogs and think of you often. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Carolyn Carr

    Sonia Bauman tiso.bauman@gmail.com



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