Standing at the top of the stairs that descend into my parent’s basement, I panicked. Suddenly, I couldn’t take anymore. I couldn’t bear to see the stairwell walls, much like the ones described by Dr. Suess in his book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” stripped of all traces of familiarity, leaving only “some hooks and some wires.” My heart broke as I debated the task before me: sorting the storage area, under their steps, where years of precious Christmas memories were kept.
A decision had been made for my aging parents to move out of their home, and suddenly our entire family was hit with an avalanche of emotions. How can 180 years of combined memories be suddenly sorted, stacked, and shoved into trucks. It was as if we were helping to uproot a huge cottonwood tree, and all the roots were stubbornly clinging to the earth into which they had grown. Theses roots, these assorted messy, moments that made 2 lifetimes of memories dig deep into the earth, were not easy to dislodge, and the sounds and sights were becoming more than I could take.
As their home in a small Nebraska town was dismantled, the tree uprooted, the sickening sound in my head was one of ripping, tearing and subsequent sobbing.
Much to our amazement and shock, as the massive, twisted roots were finally pried loose, exposed and still trembling, and the dusty dirt clods were still hitting the ground, my step-father needed to be placed on hospice care in his new home. Being a nurse, I was privileged to care for him in the wee hours of the morning, and as I would help turn him and empty his catheter bag, I would wonder if the next breath he took would be his last. After being up with him for a few nights, and helping with the big move during the days, I wondered how much more I could take. Exhausted emotionally and physically, I was beginning to wonder where God was in all of this.
For some reason, no one was available to help pack boxes on the day I found myself alone, teetering on the top step in my parents deserted, former home. The darkness at the bottom of the stairs frightened me, and I told myself, “Go ahead. Have a meltdown. This is horrible. Just sit here and cry.” And, I could almost hear the demons taunting, “Where is your God now?”
I didn’t even have the strength to cry out to my Daddy.
But He saw me–His little girl– struggling to carry a burden much to big for her little arms to carry, and before I could even begin my pity party, He put a song in my mind. I began to sing it softly at first, and then with tears streaming down my face, I sang it all my might.
“There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still, In all of life’s ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know.
Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.”
Realizing how much He cared for me, to give me that particular song at that particular moment in time, I was suddenly strengthened. Instead of wilting as I thought I would do, I held up my head, marched down the stairs, and I sang.
I sang, and I sang, and I sang.
Peering into the darkness under the steps where years of family memories were stored, I sang.
Holding to my aching heart the little, worn, red felt Christmas stocking my mother had made for me so long ago, I sang.
Alone, under the steps, lifting, sifting, sorting, and stacking, I sang.
I sang loudly, as if by doing so I could keep the mocking demons of doubt at bay. I felt invincible; my way brighter, and my heart lighter. Even my tired muscles revived, and I finished the painful job as if He was right beside me, making what could have been drudgery, a delight.
While caring for my step-father in the darkness of that next night, I had my arm around his shoulders, and my face was inches from his as I helped him to a sitting position on the edge of his hospital bed in his living room. I smiled and asked him, “What song do you have in your heart tonight, Cal?” He gave me a funny look, and I suggested this one:
“There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low……
Through all of life’s ebb and flow.”
And we sang together in the night.
Bridgers, Luther B. He Keeps Me Singing, 1909