By L.T. Elliot
I remember my childhood in fits and starts. There are memories that peek through the lace of my mind and some that are swallowed beneath a haze. Some of the more serene ones have bubbled through and I get the chance to hold their shiny spheres up to the light and examine them at will. Gently, oh so gently.
One of those delicate memories carries the song of my mother. I hear her unique voice rise through time and wrap around my child-thin shoulders. I am embraced and warmed by her melody.
We sit on a long pew of woven browns and reds. My younger siblings play a game with my father’s hands, trying to sneak their fingers like insects into his large palm but his hand is the Venus Fly Trap and he is quick. They giggle each time his fingers snap closed around theirs.
In my mother’s lap, a green book of hymns is open-faced; the words a smear of black jam. Her eyes move from my giggling little sister back to the chorister, though her lips continue their faithful prayer. The words I know—the meaning I don’t, but I know that she does and she believes each one of them. She sings, “I shall divide my gifts from thee With ev’ry brother that I see Who has the need of help from me.”
As I examine this gleaming memory, I’m filled with gratitude. Gratitude that my mother knew those words, sung them, and lived them—does so still. She never lectured me on kindness or charity. She just sang the hymn and practiced its words. So many have been the beneficiary of her song, myself included. So many have known the melody and have been blessed by the kindness. But I examine the memory and remember her voice.
Now as I sit in worshipful prayer, offering my own song, I hear her singing. I hear different songs, snatches of, “By this shall men know, ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another” and “Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me enough to die for me. Oh, it is wonderful! Wonderful to me!” I am older and I know the meaning but in my mind, there is a mirror that holds up the image of her sitting next to me, offering these words with the whole of her heart, and knowing their truths. There is more than words. There is my mother.
At times, I think I don’t know anyone who knows my Savior like my mother does. Those hymns are not just words to her but personal creeds. She has adopted His language and speaks it fluently. She has a great love for what is right and would stand alone if she had to, to sing the words that He has taught her. Although I think she knows that she will never stand alone—not while singing His songs.
As this Thursday nears, I am reminded to proffer my gratitude at the laden table—not just for the bountiful feast but for the one that my mother laid out for my soul. For this Thanksgiving, I will set my table with those translucent spheres from my memory and with my heart, I’ll sing the words. Someday, I hope my children will hold their own bubbles and know that even though the meaning was lost to them, it wasn’t to me.
In my mind, I see the duality of she and I, sitting on that russet tinted pew, both grown. Our voices mingle and rise and together, we both understand the lyrics.
Mom, it is wonderful, wonderful to me.
*Lyrics and title are from Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints