17 December 2017

“ … and finally.”

I read somewhere that the last part of the memory to go is the bit that remembers songs we learned even as a child. Now don’t quote me on that because I can’t remember what book I read it in and can’t check it, memory starting to go you see, but it would make sense. I’m forever lamenting that my youngsters can’t seem to remember that there are hangers in their wardrobe for their clothes, the laundry basket is for unwashed clothes not a throw-it-all-in-cupboard; and yet ask them to trot out the words of the latest pop song and you’ll get it word perfect, facial expressions and all. There’s just something about singing that makes a connection and stays with us.

One of the memories I have of my grandmother, even in the more advanced stages of dementia, is her sitting in her chair by the fire singing hymns she’d learned as a girl. She’d caress an old and well worn Songs of Victory in hands twisted with arthritis but never once did she need to open it and what I remember most is the look of peace, very rarely seen in those last days on her face.

I suppose it wasn’t so much her singing that brought her comfort, it was what she was singing about. ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.’ She had personal experience of that amazing grace. ‘There is a green hill far away without a city wall where the dear Lord was crucified who died to save us all.’ She loved that one too for there was a time when she had asked that Lord into her heart and life and it must have been a great comfort to her to know that because of that decision she could sing and mean it, yes we’ll gather at the river that flows from the throne of God. I think it’s largely down to her I know and love so many hymns and I don’t know about you, but I find if I’m down a bit and start to sing those old hymns it isn’t long till my spirits lift. I’m not sure that those round me get much benefit from my ‘scraighing’, as we say here in Ulster, but as my father always reminded us the Lord never said you have to make a tuneful noise, just a joyful noise.

And so, while reminding my children to be tidy, I’ll teach them hymns and songs with valuable truths in them from God’s word. After all, the Bible encourages us to speak to ourselves “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” and maybe when I’m old and sitting by my chair near the fire I’ll remember, ‘whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.’

Vi Dawson