The other day I opened my old 1940 Episcopal hymnal to the Advent and Christmas section to look for hymns in keys that would be easy to play on my violin. When I came across number 41 (110 in the newer 1982 addition ), I decided to play it on the piano instead because I wanted to hear the lovely harmony by Leo Sowerby, which, by the way, is not found in the newer hymnal, much is the pity. I didn’t get very far before the tears came to my eyes, and soon I had to stop playing altogether, I was crying so hard. Such is the way of mothers, especially old ones who miss their children.
As the notes of this wonderful hymn rang in my ears, I was transported back to Christ Church in San Antonio, Texas, many years ago. I pictured my little family sitting in the pew in the first row of the transept, our usual spot, George near me with Emily and Matt between us and little Ben on my lap, and all of us in the whole congregation singing at the top of our lungs this joyous hymn.
I love Christmas, but it always carries a touch of bittersweetness when I think of how our lives have changed over the years. Of course most of the changes have been wonderful, resulting in happy marriages, an awesome son-in-law and a fabulous daughter-in-law, not to mention my two incredible granddaughters. But the years have also meant that the children grew up and moved away, and I can’t see them whenever I want. My mama arms are so empty.
Most of the time, I am so busy with my Hampton Roads Writers responsibilities, church volunteer work, working out at the Y, tutoring, and my writing, besides trying to be the best wife I can be for my George, that I can push that ache right out of my mind. But then something will trigger a memory, and I am a bawling mess. In this case, it was sitting down at the piano and playing #41 in the 1940 Episcopal hymnal, and remembering one December Sunday morning long ago when we were all together and we all believed the message of what we were singing.
There is a wonderful Youtube video of hymn 41 (or 110) sung by the Mormon Tabernacle choir, but this one is my favorite of this lovely hymn because it is from a service in an Episcopal church and you hear families singing and children talking, so it reminds me even more of when we were a young family.