By Elizabeth Van Liere
No matter if the skies are gray, my Tuesday mornings shine with special blessings. Six to eight elderly ladies and men wait for me. Oh, not me, exactly. They wait for the blessing of hymns, which I play on my CD player.
They come down the hall of the nursing home to the meeting room, shuffling behind walkers or maneuvering wheelchairs with arthritic hands.
“Who are you?” Gloria usually asks. “What are we going to do?”
As I do every week, I explain. “I’m Betty. We’re going to listen to hymns.”
Gloria smiles from ear to ear. “Oh, good!” she exclaims.
“Sing along, if you like,” I say.
“I can’t sing anymore,” Mary whispers. “I had a stroke.”
“It’s OK. Sing silently,” I tell her. “God hears your heart.”
Tom reaches over and pats Mary’s hand. “That’s right,” he says.
Ah, this is my blessing. Here I am, 91 years young, still able to drive. This means I can bring remembered joy to these senior saints. And I get to share in it. Hymns for each of us are memories brought to life.
At one time hymns inspired us with the unknown. Still new to life, we could only sense what the writers had experienced: health and sickness, birth and death, despair but also God’s presence. Now many of the same trials lie behind us and we’ve learned to depend on God more and more.
First the trials trickled down, then became a downpour. The nursing home residents now live in a room instead of a house. They sleep on twin beds with a stranger instead of a spouse. Gifts and treasures have been discarded, divided, or dumped. Accompanied by vague memories, the lonesome days pass in God’s waiting room.
What joy it is to see light replace the vacant look in the eyes of these oldsters as they hear the beloved songs. Their lips move. I smile for they are singing along.
They Know Jesus
Today as I plug in the CD player, I say, “We’re gonna listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford.”
“One of my favorite singers,” Sandra says and claps her hands.
“Abide With Me” cuts into the silence. Tom closes his eyes and sings along. His husky voice must have added harmony to a church choir at one time.
The next song, “Jesus Loves Me,” dates back to 1860. Two sisters wrote it for a novel they had written. In the story a Sunday school teacher sings the words to a dying boy. It is the world’s best-known children’s hymn. Before my eyes the elderly saints become children again as I see them sing along silently.
“Was blind, but now I see,” from “Amazing Grace,” is next. At those words I see Lorna tip her head heavenward. Tears fill my eyes and I bite my lip, for Lorna is blind.
The last song ends. “Not finished already!” Carol says.
“Sorry,” I say. “Umm, how about next week—what is your favorite song?”
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is the immediate response from almost everyone. They know the song and they know Jesus.
These elderly saints may not remember me from week to week. They may not remember I came, soon after I leave, but the words of the hymns affirm what their hearts remember. Yes, they know Jesus.
Elizabeth Van Liere’s Dare to Live and Dare to Laugh were published at ages 88 and 91.