I recently attended a women’s retreat at our church, St. John Vianney. I needed some quiet time with God to thank Him for all my blessings. Forty other women filled the room. I think all women need some quiet time to reflect. This was our time.
The gals at my table were sharing song books. “Please join us in song 456 in your missal. “Here I Am, Lord,” hymn #456.” The music began and filled the room. This is one of those songs that immediately brings me to tears. Thirty-eight women sang like angels, while two women sang off key. Meet me and my new friend, Evelyn. She sang soprano, while I bellowed in alto. Next verse, I tried to imitate her beautiful voice and went high. She must have thought the same thing about my voice because she went low.
By the third verse, we were a mixture of Celine Dion and Kermit the Frog.
I leaned in and whispered, “I do better singing with men.” She grinned and said, “Me, too.”
By the forth verse, I was tired of trying to sing properly and in tune. I said, “Hey Evelyn, let’s just belt it out.” And we did! She was Celine, I was Kermit. But we sang and God loved us. He may have held his ears, but He gave us these voices to sing.
This all brought back the memory of my mom’s friend, Peggy Bohn. She was a tall, dark-haired woman with a big smile and laugh that could be heard two streets away. Her singing voice was the same. She never worried that she was the deep voice in the soprano pews. She belted out every song from the bottom of her heart. Her voice resonated throughout the church. I often think of Peggy when they announce the hymn at church. I admire her more with each off-key hymn I sing. Peggy had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. She even smiled when her husband, Bud, brought home a raccoon as a pet.
As we wrapped up “Here I Am, Lord,” Evelyn and I had reached an entirely new level. The words of the song were caught in our throats with emotion. Tears were streaming down my face. The other women sounded like a choir from heaven. Evelyn and I sang from our hearts like pre-pubescent boys. Once again, she was high soprano and I was Kermit low alto, and then we switched again. We sang with joy-filled hearts, as we swayed to the music.
When it was over, I spread my arms in exultation. I handed her a tissue as I hugged my new friend. “We did really good on that one,” I sniffled.
Evelyn agreed, “That was our best one yet.”
I think I heard God clapping. Peggy gave us a standing ovation.
— Anne Bardsley
Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause and Angel Bumps. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.