Maybe it’s yet another sign of getting older…there are a lot of those these days. As I came upon one of my favorite early morning spots yesterday, overwhelming nostalgia took over, and I was flooded with memories stretching way back to my early childhood. It came to me instantly upon seeing the beautiful shafts of light breaking through the trees shining boldly on the road ahead of me.
I was transported back to my grandparents’ little country church in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, and it was one of the many Sunday mornings that my family spent there during my growing up years. Although we lived over 500 miles away in Michigan, several times a year we journeyed to the “home place” where my mother grew up. It was always a great adventure because life was quite different there. But Sundays were always the same. Worshiping the Lord was top priority.
As I look back now, it was a huge effort getting everybody up, fed, chores done (morning milking, gathering fresh eggs from the chicken coop, carrying in coal for the stove, etc), and dressed in our Sunday best. But when it was the appointed time, we were eager and ready to load up the cars and drive the 20 minutes to the “church house,” as they liked to call it. My mother is from a family of 13 children, so even when the oldest began to get married and live elsewhere, there would still be 8-9 living at home. Before we left for church, Granddaddy would announce that it was time to get your offering, and he would dole out something to each family member to put in the offering plate. Didn’t ever think much about it at the time, but he was consciously teaching his children and grandchildren to be givers and the importance of contributing to God’s work.
So go to church we did, ALWAYS arriving early so that there would be time to greet our “brothers and sisters in the Lord” before church started. Most often when I was in attendance there with my parents and sister, the opening song was “Heavenly Sunlight” from the old church hymnal. Sung loudly with gusto, accompanied only by an out of tune upright piano (no baby grands here!), we would belt it out:
“Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight
Flooding my soul with glory divine.
Hallelujah! I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.”
And that’s where my two realities collided…the then and the now. The memory of those long-ago Sunday mornings being in church with my extended family stayed with me all day. I sang “Heavenly Sunshine” in the car as I enjoyed my time in the Cove. Couldn’t help think about how things are so different now. My grandparents and my dad have moved to Heaven, and the last time I attended the little Kentucky church so vividly remembered yesterday was for my granddaddy’s funeral long ago.
The ravages of dementia have robbed my mom of much of her memory, and as I visit her these days, conversation is slow and hard because she’s not able to think of things to say. Recently we bought her a CD player so that she could enjoy some of the old gospel songs and hymns that she has always loved so much. As the music plays, she leans back, closes her eyes and sings every word to those songs that hearken back to her family’s little country church. Many times our visits consist of my sister, mom, and me just sitting there singing together.
As I reflected on all of this yesterday, I was overcome with gratefulness and appreciation for my past, my Christian heritage, my roots, my family and all that has made me who I am…the good foundation, the things you can hang on to through thick and thin. Time indeed moves on, change is inevitable, but I love the fact that I still look forward to Sunday mornings and gathering with fellow believers who have that same enthusiasm for worship that I observed as a small child many, many years ago.