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What do we do with our freedom?

Over a week ago I sat in the back of a small chapel.  I usually sit in front but I was visiting my parents and my dad is a back-row ‘sitter’. Before the meeting began, several people from my childhood greeted me warmly; A business owner who taught me everything there was to know about being a good waitress, a lady who is best friends with my mom, another who sat in a wheel chair-she used to be my nursery leader when I was very little.  Her husband was my music teacher in elementary school and we shared the same birthday.  I always thought he and his wife were pretty special. Mr. M was very patriotic.   He made sure each 4th grader knew the importance of the American flag.  He taught us (along with my dad who served in the military) that it was to never touch the ground and that we should always respect it.

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Mr. M also taught us “The Star Spangled Banner.”  After learning the first verse, he encouraged each of us to learn the remaining two on our own and promised us a Snickers candy bar if we could learn it by the end of the week.  I went home and did just that.  I don’t remember how I did it, I just know that on Friday, in front of the whole class I was awarded a chocolate bar.

Fast forward 30 years and I am seated just a few feet from Mr. and Mrs. M.  She is in her wheelchair and he is right by her side.  They have raised a good family together which have brought them grandchildren and great grandchildren. This couple is now in their 90’s.  Their once strong bodies have started to stoop and soften. Their faces are worn and tired looking but they are still smiling.  After the speakers have delivered their heartfelt speeches about religious and  political freedom as well as  being free from the grasp that the devil can have on us, the organist begins to move  to her position.

Three, loud melodious notes of the prelude  are played and Mr. M pops out of his seat like a brand new JACK in the BOX.  The tune is familiar. It is the Star-Spangled Banner.  He is standing as alert as a brand new soldier on the first day of boot camp. He holds no hymnal. Out of the corner of my eye I see my own dad follow Mr. M and stand at attention, forgetting his own 35-year old injury that nearly cost him his leg.   Before the introduction is  over, everyone in the chapel, including myself,  is erect and ready to sing our National Anthem…..everyone that is but Mrs. M. She sits quietly in her wheel chair, her soft wrinkled face looking forward.  She may not be the only one seated due to frailty,  but she is the only one I see.

My first instinct is to go to her and stand by her side. I gently place my hand on her shoulder.  In my heart I want her to know that I knew she would stand if she had the strength. She immediately looks over her shoulder and I see the years in her blue-gray eyes. She then brings her wrinkled arthritic hand up to place it on mine. We stand there together through all three verses.  At the end of the song, I looked down at her and gave her squeeze.

She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I love you”

 

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