This past Sunday, I stood in church. Our church is big church in a metro area, it's a multi-site church, and this past week was our first time in our new local building. A gigantic, new, multi-media, state-of-the-art, BIG building. As we stood, in awe of the industrial design, the new tech, the light-show, the number of people, the music, it was the music that brought me about, and took me to a far away place.
We sang and old hymn, one reason i love this church so, they respect the way we grew up, they respect "The old ways" and they dovetail it into this new age. Keeping the important messages and making them fresh and new, and helping us to see new things in the sometimes tired feeling tunes and words. On this day we sang "It is well with my soul", one of my all time favorite hymns. it was this song that took me on a trip.
I was suddenly in a smaller building, the basement, a dusty, echoing, wooden public hall. I am small, in a calico dress made by my talented seamstress of a mother, swinging my legs, clad in baggy tights that rarely fit my chicken like legs. I looked to my right, at the end of the isle of old wooden folding chairs, and there they sat.
They were like oak trees, or a sundial, always there, never moving, something you can count on, tell the time by, trustworthy, safe and anchoring. They always sat there, three rows from the front, right on the middle isle. Him in a smart grey suit, her in her Sunday dress with red and white LLBean bag in tow. The Grandparents of the church, Dr and Mrs Sanctuary, they were quiet, austere, and warm. they loved us all as if we were their own grandchildren. He was an elder and respected Doctor, and she was a go-to for advice on pretty much anything from parenting to recipes, to time proven home remedies for any sickness under the sun.
They opened their old stately home frequently, to everyone and anyone. We were allowed to meet there on Fridays as a homeschool co-op group. Our favorite time of the week was here, atop a hill overlooking our tiny town of Walpole New Hampshire, surrounded by miles and miles of farmland generations old. Lunch was had at their giant farm table in the gracious dining room that time never touched. Movie days were had in the cozy living room, children sprawled all over the antique furniture, pillows on the ancient rugs on the floor, all crowded around an aged Television, watching movies like, Charlotte's web, and Anne of Green Gables. English lessons were had in the sunroom, with giant windows looking over the hundred year old back yard filled with wildflowers and lilacs planted ages ago. The room was filled with houseplants and charming knick knacks, perfect for distracted children to study and wonder about their histories. We even had a special session on manners, where boys were taught how to be gentlemen, and girls how to act ladylike. We practiced proper phone etiquette on a black, old fashioned phone, straight out of a Jimmy Stewart movie. Private reading lessons were had in the kitchen, with Grandma Sanctuary. I would sit at the tiny table in the corner and read, while she cooked on the giant cast iron stove, washed dishes in the big farm sink, or sat with me and worked on her sewing.
When i think back on these days, and these people, i think about how generous they were with time, and life, and things. I don't remember ever being scolded for feet on a faded antique chase, or spilling milk on ornate rugs, or even for chasing chickens in the old barn. They were patient, and loving and giving.
Recently the news spread that the dear old Doctor passed away, how very sad. He was so kind to noisy children. So patient with giggly girls. They took in single women who acted as teachers and helpers to the moms in our co-op. They acted as parents to these young women, and let them treat the generational home as their own for as long as they lived there, even giving one the place to use for her reception after her wedding. The other teacher, Miss Sheridan, (now Mrs Beaver), she would sometimes have Sleep overs with a few of us lucky girls. We would get to roam the old house in the night hours, and stayed up all hours telling ghost stories. We would pounce around during the early morning hours, laughing and playing, and talking the doctors ear off while he listened, and laughed and somehow still managed to prepare his teachings for Sunday morning.
The hymn we sang in church this past Sunday brought me back to those glorious childhood days. I could see them standing there, singing this very hymn. No music, no grand light-show, just a dusty town hall basement, with a small collection of locals, singing the words with heartfelt emotion and faith. These were my glory days, the days I look back on and thank God for. They structured who I am, who I have become and who I have the potential to be. Many people in this time gave me so many things, lessons, love, friendship, examples, and faith. These two though, they were truly like Grandparents to me. Mine were far away, and in a time of no cell phones, or facebook, or facetime, it was hard to not have them near. It was fun to watch this couple, married for so long, so grounded in faith in God, so happy to be who they were, where they were, so content with their lives, and so ready to share and give with all.
These are the lessons I choose to keep, to continue to follow. THAT is how I want to be. I want to grow up, and more in love with my husband, to love my kids, and grandkids, and love other people's kids, and be that couple someday, that grandparent couple to some child who misses their own, who can feel safe, and loved and special. Isn't that an amazing legacy?
Even now, so many miles away, so many years have passed since I have even seen or spoken with them, I miss the Doctor, I ache for the hole left in Mrs Sanctuary's life by the passing of her lifelong partner. I am so very grateful for them in my life. Thanks to you both, for the impression you have so lovingly pressed into my life. I am a better person for knowing you both!
This past Sunday, i couldn't find my voice to sing, but I smiled, and listened intently, and thought, yes, yes it is well, it is well with my soul.