Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Music Fills the AirAround Us and the Empty Spaces in Our Hearts

 Music. We connect events and emotions to music. Music signals us to sing, stand, dance, cheer, or cry. Music is probably the most lasting of influences in our lives. 


We learn through music. We remember words set to catchy tunes. No? You’re thinking you’re one of those who can’t remember the words of songs. Maybe. But you remember the tune. And consider this one: the Alphabet Song. I still hear people zip their way through that song when looking something up in the dictionary. Phooey, I’ve done it. (Even though as a child, I thought “elemeno” was a letter.)


Music is a power tool for the brain.


My maternal grandmother loved what we often refer to as “the old hymns.” She would sing them as she cooked or quilted. She sang them as she worked the garden and while she milked the cow. As Grandma aged, dementia began slowly creeping into her mind. The disease was taking over, bit by bit. Grandma would sit on the sidelines of life in her silent, isolated world. 


We would try to talk with her. Her eyes were vacant and expressionless. But if we’d sing one of those old hymns, Grandma would join in and sing with us, rarely missing a beat. I believe words that shaped her in those songs like The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace, were at the core of who she was and nothing, even dementia, could penetrate the core.


Songs have a way of touching our hearts. A more contemporary song we sing in church begins with “Bless the Lord, o my soul…” The song is called Ten Thousand Reasons. Every time I would hear the song start, I would say, “I love this song.” I did. So did Tom. After Tom died, I would sing it full force until I came to this verse:


            “And on that day, when my strength is failing,

The end draws near and my time has come…”


Right about there I would fall apart. The song would take me straight back into that emergency room, standing by Tom’s side, talking to him as if my words could change everything. I was helpless. His strength was failing. His time on this earth was coming to an end. 


I moved to Kosovo a few years after Tom’s death. My church there played the same songs we sang at my home church in in the United States. Sometimes the words were in Albanian, but I knew the music. One Sunday, the music started and the English words popped up on the screen. “Bless the Lord o my soul.” I turned to a friend beside me and said, “I love this song!” I had forgotten what was to come. Again. But when we got to that verse all the same feelings of loss washed over me. I had to sit down. I prayed for God’s help. That’s how stressful this song was for me.


While I was living overseas, my church family attended a retreat at a beach in Albania. We left after school on Friday and made our way across the mountains, west to an Albanian seaside hotel. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it was about a three-hour drive. I rode with a young family and a couple of other attendees in a van. The little boy with us was three-years-old. I’ll call him Ben. He was quite musical. I actually have a video of him playing a guitar and singing. He had a favorite CD he loved, so of course all the passengers agreed to playing it. 


I think we listened to that song twenty times or more. Ben knew every word. Ten Thousand Reasons.  

The song would start up and three-year-old Ben would sing with his whole heart, “Bless the Lord o my soul.” 


I asked God to help me. He did. The funny thing is, somewhere on the road I began enjoying the song again. I no longer associate it with Tom’s death. I associate it with a precious little boy singing at the top of his lungs in a passenger van heading across the mountain. 


And until that trip, I don’t think I had paid much attention to the last part of that verse. Here it is in total:


         And on that day, when my strength is failing, 

         The end draws near, and my time has come,

Still, my soul will sing Your praise unending,

Ten thousand years and then, 



Music reaches into our very core. I think of little Ben often. One day, when he is very old and gray and that vacant look shadows his eyes, I hope his grandchildren will begin singing, “Bless the Lord, o my soul…”


I’m guessing he’ll join right in. 


Link to listen to Ten Thousands Reasons by Matt Redman








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