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).
Questions for Reflection:
- 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?
- If you enjoy singing, where did you learn it?
- 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