A group at Genesis UMC visits a local assisted living facility, Brookdale, each month in part because I saw my father in the conditions of the residents.
We had a better than usual turnout this month, which is wonderful. Unless you are around one of the folks for some time, you cannot asses how much information they are processing. Some cannot hear well, some cannot see well, some can do neither well, several are in varying stages of dementia, a fourth of them are in wheel chairs, and most of the others use walkers. so, you just do not know what they are feeling or understanding. We had a new man, looked to be 90 or so, named Raymond (he is the gent you see at the beginning of the video.) I talked to him a while and found out that he was from somewhere near Austin.
We sing three hymns, accompanied by a cd player, have a communion service, then a benediction. After the benediction, just like in church, everyone talks for a little bit. At this time, Raymond looked at me and said he’d like to sing a song. I had him repeat it, because he had been mostly slumped over. This was great, and after shushing everyone, in the silence, he sang out in a clear voice, a good voice, a Capella, the first two verses of Beulah Land. Then he said that was his favorite hymn, and there are two additional verses, but he could not remember them.
Not this was not an earth shattering, headline making event, but it seems to me to be a minor miracle. How he called up something from his youth, most likely, on the spot and performed for us. We are going to find a simple version of it and sing it together next month.
I recall this hymn from ages ago, probably 50, maybe 60 years past. It is beautiful, a gospel sort of song with a Gaelic, Irish, Scottish feel for it. It invokes something akin to the melancholy sadness and loss and hope that Danny Boy does. For me, the faded memory it summons is that of a small white clapboard church, off a gravel paved road, with a sandy driveway, and to the rear and left of the church is a cemetery. Everyone in the church is fanning themselves with those paper fans with a picture of Jesus, that the funeral homes used to give to the churches. Listen to it sometime when you have a chance.