Yesterday morning, my heart was heavy. So heavy I had a hard time getting out the door and to work. I know it's a symptom of depression, that kind of darkness. It was the 10th anniversary of my mother's death, and I felt the wound of loss more keenly than I have since that night in 2009. It was as if my body remembered exactly what it had felt like.
I made it just barely in time for one of our killer 2-hour staff meetings, got ready to attend a service fair at the local college, and ate two hotdogs for lunch (which NEVER HAPPENS, people!). At the last minute I invited our seminarian Steve to join me at the service fair, and happily he was able to. Having him for company was a boon; he is a nerd and a man of spiritual integrity, so we get on very well. Afterwards, we grabbed a bite to eat at the local Wegmans, then I had a decision to make: do I go to choir practice or go home and sleep?
I was absolutely exhausted in mind and body. Steve, who is also in the Traditional Choir, said, "Whatever you do will be best," and he left me to my shopping for body wash and chicken broth (hey, I was in Wegmans, anyway). By the time I left Wegs, it was 6:25. I had a choice - home or choir practice. I asked the Lord what I should do (because really at that point I was practically in a fugue state). I found myself driving to the church. Because, I realized as I pulled into St Casimir's parking lot, what better way to honor Mom's memory than to sing in the choir loft where she and I sang together for all those years when I was young. And hey, being with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is always good!
Practice was lovely. Steve had been concerned that it might actually make me feel worse, but indeed it was quite the opposite. Singing drew me out of myself, and there were a few moments where I was transfixed by Jesus in the tabernacle, and I kept chanting in my heart "Jesus, I trust in you," the Divine Mercy prayer. Singing in some way cleared the fog, and at the center of my being, there was Jesus where he is always waiting for me (for us), and my love for Him - or rather perhaps, his love for me - welled up and overflowed.
Music heals, my friends, especially sacred music. We are beings of music. I'm convinced God sang and sings the universe and all of us into being. Music is the universal language that comprises mathematics and creativity. It can destroy as well as build up, depending on what spirit is infused - but it is, I am convinced, the 2nd most powerful force on earth, next to Love (God is Love). It can connect us because it is a part of us. Give this a watch if you don't know what I mean:
The last piece we rehearsed was "All Creatures of Our God and King" as the recessional for Sunday's 7:30 Mass (when the Traditional Choir sings). I remembered that when I was young, I used to sing a descant for this hymn. I could sort of hear it in my head but needed the sheet music to get it back. After a few seconds of discussion, Jessica, our Music Director, said the older music was still sitting in the cabinet by the stairs. Now by "older" I'm talking music from 25-35 years ago. So when everyone was getting ready to leave, I went over and started rooting around the antique music cabinet. I opened the bottom doors and poked my head in. It was total chaos in there. Among other things, I found two old tambourines and a triangle (ah yes, 80s liturgical music). Then sitting off to the side on its own, a very fat red folder. It drew my eye; it looked vaguely familiar, somehow.
I sat down on the floor in front of the cabinet and pulled it into my lap. I opened it. And saw my mother's name written on the inside pocket.
I literally couldn't breathe for a moment, as I realized what I held in my arms: My mother's choir folder from 30 years ago. Waiting for me, for this exact moment, on this night, precisely 10 years after her death. The Mass sheet for the Midnight Mass of 1990 was still inside.
They, too, were astonished. All the choirs and organists and musicians that have walked up and down those steps these last 3 decades, and no one had cleaned out the bottom of that cabinet. "Elena, you are so loved," Mary said. "You are so blessed." Blessed, indeed.
I tell this story first to glorify Christ and then to express how humbled I am by his everlasting goodness to me. And I must also give props to Blessed Mother Mary, whose intercession I implored as I neared that dreadful date of January 22nd. In light of the gift I've been given, I am praying ever more diligently for all those experiencing loss, rejection, abandonment, betrayal, or grief of any kind that leads to depression. You are not alone, and there is reason to hope.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7
(Still haven't found the sheet music with the descant, tho. Nor a recording of it.)