Singing We Go

Aaron LOVES listening to CD’s when we drive places…and yes, we still use CD’s in our van, and sometimes in our kitchen, because we’re old and our van is old and Aaron LOVES CD’s. 

Why does he love CD’s?  Well, he can hold the case and look at the title of each song that is playing, as well as the number of the song on the back of the case.  This is orderly and sensible, which makes great sense to Aaron. 

It’s pretty hilarious, actually, to watch Aaron go through this process, and to hear his voice.  He watches the CD player in the van, for instance, and as soon as the number of the song pops up, he then repeats the number to me and tells me the song title.  It doesn’t matter that I haven’t asked for this information.  He gives it anyway.

The current CD that we are playing becomes his sole focus for however long it takes us to finish this CD.  It’s usually several days, so for that period of time we hear all about the singer or the group.  Again, it doesn’t matter that we haven’t asked for this information.  We will get it anyway, an any time of the day or night. 

At this moment in time, Aaron is listening…again…to Ronnie Milsap.  He adores Ronnie Milsap.  He knows all about Ronnie Milsap…where he was born (near Gary’s hometown!)…his childhood…his blindness…and definitely his songs!  And I can’t tell you how many times Aaron has said, “Mom, when Ronnie Milsap sings, he goes like this!”  At which time Aaron jerks his head around just like Ronnie Milsap does, because Aaron has watched him on YouTube and has keenly observed Ronnie Milsap’s head jerking and swaying as he keeps time to the music.  But when Aaron copies those movements, it’s quite hilarious…and to people in cars beside us, it’s probably quite puzzling.

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Another musical trait that Aaron displays, proudly and loudly at times, is to sing a main phrase of the last song that he has heard before we exit the van.  There was the day, etched into my memory, when the last song that was playing before we entered Wal-Mart was Shania Twain’s classic, “Man!  I Feel Like a Woman!”  So yes, Aaron walked around Wal-Mart singing…more like saying…with his unexpressive and flat voice, “Man!  I feel like a woman!” 

That was a very interesting day.

Aaron had a doctor appointment today, so I decided that it was a good day for a morning haircut and beard trim on our way to lunch.  We drove to Great Clips, and on our way Ronnie Milsap was singing.  Aaron reached down between our seats to grab the CD, look at the number displayed on the CD player, and then match the number to the title index on the back of the CD box. 

“Number 6,” Aaron intoned.  “All Together Now Let’s Fall Apart,” he read with no expression. 

We soon sat in Great Clips after confirming our on-line check-in.  Aaron was ready for his hair cut NOW, but I told him that we needed to sit and wait…that it wouldn’t be long. 

I hoped.

Soon another customer entered and walked up to the counter.  Aaron immediately thought that she would delay his haircut.  In disgust, he uttered his favorite saying lately.

“Oh, puhleeeese!” he muttered.

“Aaron!” I then muttered close to his ear.  “Don’t say that!”

So I began tickling his back, which always calms him, and sometimes gives me hope that he’ll be quiet.

Then another customer entered.

“Oh no!!” Aaron said. 

Now I was REALLY tickling his back, pushing him down so that I had better access, and also so that his face and mouth were facing the floor!

He then decided to sing.

“All together now, let’s fall apart,” he spoke/sang in his usual monotone. 

No joke, I thought!! 

But soon his hair cut was done, lunch at Longhorn was happily completed, and we ran home for a few minutes.  I needed to let Jackson out to potty, and I also had another chore to do…a bit of a yucky one.

Aaron had informed me, just before we left for Great Clips, that he MIGHT have wet a little…maybe just a little…in his bed during the night.  It wasn’t a seizure, but instead a result of TOO much water before bed.  He has been read the riot act on that, by the way.

More of the story and the extent of the damage was found just before we left, with no time to clean it up.  I couldn’t stay too irritated for too long, though, when at Longhorn Aaron agreed to ask the blessing before we ate.  He stretched his hand across the table for me to hold.

“Dear Lord,” he began.  “Help me not to pee in my bed again.  And thank you for this food.”

How could I stay mad?

So at home, I gathered up his bedding…ALL of it…his many covers included.  I examined the carpet, and then knelt down in the tight spot between his bed and the wall.  The spray bottle wouldn’t work at first, but eventually it did.  But my legs wouldn’t work well, either, as I struggled to get up.  Just then, I heard Aaron at his desk…singing…

“All together now, let’s fall apart,” he once again flatly sang.

He has no idea how my loud laughter made getting up off the floor even harder!!  And how much it helped dissolve my frustration.

I have two Ronnie Milsap songs that I have decided are Aaron’s songs, though he is clueless about them. 

The first one was playing in the kitchen last night. 

“Number 11,” Aaron said with no emotion.  “There’s No Getting Over Me,” he read. 

“That’s a funny name for a song,” he added.

But it’s a PERFECT song for YOU, Aaron!!  There’s no getting over you!! 

And I don’t want to, either!

The second song?  It was playing when we pulled into the driveway after his doctor visit today.  It’s on the second CD disk, in case you’re wondering.

“Number 1,” Aaron said, of course.  “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World,” he finished.

BINGO!!

 

 

High Cotton!

Aaron loves the group, Alabama, so last night it was his CD of choice as we drove to pick up a pizza….and breadsticks!  That made Aaron extra happy!  When we listen to a CD, Aaron follows along with the names of the songs by picking up the CD box each time a new song begins.  Number 1….and he’s looking for the song title on the back of the CD box.  Song number 2 begins, and he grabs the box again to locate the correct title once more…..and so it goes for as long as the CD is playing. 

Whichever song is playing when we get home and get out of the van is the one that will be in Aaron’s head for hours, and sometimes days.  Last night it was one of our favorites….High Cotton.  But Aaron will pick a few words and say, or sing, them over and over and over and over until I just think I might pop!  With exasperation!  Last night I heard “hiiiigggghhhhh cotton” way, way, way too many times.  That’s how Alabama ends the song, by the way…..holding out the word “high”…so Aaron totally was into that for the whole evening, including belting it out in his shower.  And while he was on his computer.  During our game of SkipBo.  And even whispering it in bed as he tried to go to sleep.  Whispering it because Mom has told him not to be loud since I have the monitor on listening for seizures.  I’m listening for seizures, I tell him, and am not in the mood for singing at 11:00 p.m.

And ever so softly through the monitor I hear, “hiiiiiggggghhhhh cotton.” 

Just enough to keep me awake…..and enough for Aaron to climb out of bed way after 11:00 p.m., thump up the hall, burst through our bedroom door and loudly ask, “Mom?!!  Are you keeping the monitor on??!!” 

“Not if I hear anymore “hiiiigggghhhhh cotton!!!!” I try to reply quietly but with emphasis.  

I’ve had it with Alabama and cotton, high or not!!

But I did have to laugh last night when Aaron came down to play SkipBo.

“Mom?” he said.  “I noticed something.”

And he waited for me to ask, so I know to just go ahead and do so because he’ll either wait forever or he’ll repeat the question.

“What did you notice, Aaron?” I asked.

“Well, I noticed that it seems like Alabama sings south songs,” he informed me. 

Aaahhhh, yes.  South songs.  Of course.

It got even better this morning, first thing.  Aaron walked in the kitchen and took up where he had left off the night before.

“Mom, I was watching Alabama sing on my computer last night.  You know what?”

What, Aaron?

“I noticed they look like south men,” he told me.

Ummmm…..I guess they do.

I couldn’t get Aaron to expound on this subject further, but if he does I’ll let you know.  In the meantime, here’s the CD cover picture of Alabama.

Otherwise known as South Men.

Singing South Songs.

Hiiiigggghhhhh Cotton!!

Keeps Me Singing

It was probably over 55 years ago that a soloist with a beautiful voice went to sing in a revival service in the little town of Oakvale, West Virginia.  She sang the hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and then she sat down to listen to the sermon preached by Jimmie Jones.  Her heart was disturbed as she listened to the gospel being preached that night.  She thought of the song she had just sung, and of the words that came out of her mouth in such a perfect performance…..words that she knew she didn’t really mean.  For it was just that – a performance.  She sang beautifully, but she sang a lie.  She knew that she didn’t really know Jesus, and that she didn’t really mean it when she sang about wanting Jesus more than anything this world affords. 
 

This woman was my mother, and that night changed her life and the life of our family.  She went home and urged my dad to go with her to listen to Jimmie Jones preach.  Mom didn’t know that my dad had already trusted Christ as his Savior.  It wasn’t long before my mother made the same decision.  She bowed her head and confessed her sin, and asked Jesus to be Lord of her life.  God changed my parents tremendously.  They raised their five children to know and serve the Lord, and they left us a spiritual heritage that has more value than anything this world affords.  And “I’d Rather Have Jesus” became my mother’s signature song…..one we heard her sing many, many times over the years.  One she sang with honesty for the rest of her life because of the work that God had done in her heart.

Last week we said goodbye to my mother for the final time on this earth.  We had really lost her a long time ago to the horrible ravages of Alzheimer’s.  She no longer had her memories, her personality, or any of her other faculties.  But even Alzheimer’s cannot take the Lord away.  He has promised to always be with us, and He always keeps His promises.  We saw evidences of His presence with Mom as she struggled in various ways.  What sweet comfort it brought to know that deep in her heart and her mind, God was ministering to her in ways that we could not. 

Two weeks ago, on the day before the call went out to family that mother was dying, we saw a profound picture of God’s grace in her little body and in her heart.  Jan and her daughter, Bethany, had gone to spend some time with Mom in the care home where she lived.  Mom was sitting in the commons area, her head down and her eyes closed, unresponsive to the voices and the noises around her.  Suddenly, on the television that was playing, a man started singing “Amazing Grace.”  Bethany looked down at her grandmother and saw that her lips were moving.  Surprised at this, she and Jan leaned down and put their ears to Mom’s moving lips.  Here is what they heard coming from my unresponsive mother:

          Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,

          Sweetest Name I know.

          Fills my every longing,

          Keeps me singing as I go.

My mother was singing!  Jan and Bethany wouldn’t have believed it had they not heard it for themselves.  She was clearly singing this beautiful old hymn.  She was singing about Jesus, whom she was soon to meet.  God’s prompting, God’s presence, was there with Mom in that room.  Jan and Bethany joined her in singing, and then Bethany said, “I love you.”  Mom clearly said, “I love you” to Bethany, her eyes still closed.  Then Jan said, “I love you, Mom.”  And Mom said, “I love you” to Jan as well. 

Those were the last words that my mother spoke.  The next day the family got the call that she was dying, and on Monday, May 4, my mother met Jesus.  Jesus, the sweetest name she knew.  Jesus, who filled her every longing.  Jesus, who kept her “singing as I go.”  Singing as she got ready to go to heaven. 

Like my brother, John, said at her funeral…..how appropriate that Mom’s walk with the Lord began with a song many years ago.  And her life with the Lord ended with a song…..a song that surprised us all, but was such a gift of grace and hope from God. 

A gift and an example that we will always, always cherish. 

 

Singing With Our Mother


My mother was raised in the little coal mining town of Welch, West Virginia.  Born in 1926, she was the last of six children born to Guy and Lillian Hollandsworth.  Grandpa was the principal of the school in Welch.  He and Grandma worked hard to raise their six children deep in those West Virginia mountains.  They instilled in them a love for God; a love for family; a love of culture; and a love of good music.  
Mom, fourth from the right on the front row
I loved hearing our mother talk about how she met my dad.  They met when Mom’s brother, Luther, married Dad’s sister, Mary.  Beth saw in Jack the sort of man she had never come across.  He was kind and thoughtful, a man of quality to whom she was drawn.  And as they became acquainted, they each learned something that helped seal their interest even further……they both loved classical music.  Dad was just a farm boy from Oakvale, West Virginia, who worked for the Norfolk and Western Railroad………and Mom, from a coal town deep in the mountains, was teaching Home Economics.  But quality music was important to them, so their mutual love for the same music was important as well.
Our home was full of music as we were being raised in Princeton, West Virginia.  It seemed that music was always playing on the old record player, and later the newer huge stereo cabinet in the living room.  Most of what we heard was classical, but Mom and Dad also loved the hit musicals.  I bet all five of us kids still know the words to the songs from Sound of Music, Carousel, South Pacific, and Oklahoma.  Christmas was full of beautiful and fun Christmas music.  I remember children’s records full of fun songs, too. 
Mom, on the far right, as part of the Laidley Hall Trio, 1946-47
Mom, fourth from the right on the front row
Mom didn’t just love to listen to music.  She also had a beautiful voice, and sang in choirs and madrigal groups during her high school and college years.  She was an accomplished soloist and sang in many area churches for revival services and other occasions.  A favorite song of hers…….her signature song, really……was “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”  This is the song she was singing in a little church during a revival service one night in the early 1950’s.  Jimmie Jones was preaching that night.  Mom stood up to sing, and God used the words of that song to pierce her heart.
 
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Refrain:
Than to be the king of a vast domain,
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
As Mom sang those words, she knew in her heart that she had never asked this Jesus into her heart to be her Savior.  She knew that she was standing before those people singing a lie with her beautiful voice.  She walked down the aisle that night during the invitation, and Preacher Jimmie led her to the Lord.  Dad had accepted Christ months earlier but hadn’t said much to Mom about it for fear of angering her.  Now they were united not only in marriage, and children, and their love of music…….but they were spiritually united in their love for the Lord that grew and grew over the following years.
Now our family had the completed element of being raised around God’s Word, and being active at Johnston Chapel Baptist Church where Preacher Jimmie was our pastor for all of our growing up years.  Now, too, were added beautiful hymns to the music that graced our home every day.  
All of us sang and soon we children were singing together for church.  I remember one Saturday that we even sang…..live!…….on our small town radio station.  We sang and Preacher Jimmie preached, and I have no idea how we sounded way back then.  We continued to sing as we got older, and were known as the King Sisters when John left.  And during all this time, Mom was still singing solos and blessing many with her pretty voice.
Many years have gone by since those days of early marriage and raising five children.  Dad went to heaven in December of 2008, during the season of Christmas carols and Christmas joy that Mom and Dad loved the most.  And now our mother has Alzheimer’s, lives in assisted living, and doesn’t know any of us five children or our spouses……or her grandchildren or great-grandchildren……or even her Jack, her husband…..Dad.  We can’t ask her for advice or ask her to tell us a familiar family story or ask her for a favorite family recipe.  All of that is gone.
Gary and I went home a few months ago.  Everyone was there except for Jimmy and Kathryn.  As we gathered at Jan’s house, near the end of our day with everyone, I suggested that we sing to Mom.  A friend of mine, Bev, had told me about singing to her mother who had Alzheimer’s and how her mother remembered the words……and it was their last real connection.
So we stood around Mom that evening at Jan’s and we sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  To our surprise and delight, Mom joined in.  She knew most of the words, and then to our complete surprise, she sang the descant at the end…….her voice still beautiful and sweet.  You can click on the link below to see the video of her singing that song.
We sang a few other hymns as well, and then we decided to see if we could make it through our family song…….Dad’s favorite song……”Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus.”  Again, Mom sang most of the words in her sweet voice.  And at the end, as you can hear in the below link, she tried to describe how special that song was.  She couldn’t put her finger on why it was special……she couldn’t remember exactly……and she couldn’t find the words……but she knew.  Deep inside she knew that this song was a very dear part of our family, and a dear part of her Jack……of Dad.
I’m so thankful that we sang with Mom that evening.  We were all blessed beyond measure for that time with her.  Her heart was happy as she sang.  What memories those songs stirred in all of us, including Mom. 
Memories of wonderful parents who taught us about the Lord…..who filled our hearts and our home with music……but more importantly, filled us all with love.  And over the years, as we’ve all experienced both joys and sorrows, we can fall back on the love they gave us and the Lord they made sure that we knew personally.  Many parts of our early life are gone…..and now the Mom we’ve always known is gone……but the hope we have in Christ will never be gone.  The certainty of heaven will never be gone, where we can sing together forever! 
Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday.  She will be 88 years old……and she won’t know that it’s her birthday…..or how old she is.  But as friends and family gather around her, I hope that she knows how much she is loved.  And I hope that she joins in as everyone sings “Happy Birthday!”  
I bet she will, with a smile on her happy face and a twinkle in those beautiful eyes. 
We love you, Mom!  Happy Birthday!
And thanks for showing us over the years that you really meant it when you sang, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”  And that we needed to mean it, too.