Sunday, May 29, 2022

 On January 16, I announced my intention not to choose a word to focus on throughout the year, as was my habit. Instead, inspired by a hymn our choir sang that Sunday morning, I decided to spend 2022 listening for either familiar or newly discovered songs/hymns that--in my mind--give me a "fleeting glimpse" of the divine. 

Since that morning, I've been consistent--consistent for me, that is--in posting about such songs, but I've yet to blog about the hymn that instigated this series of posts. Incidents kept occurring which made the messages of other songs seem more urgent. But two recent happenings make it abundantly clear that the time to blog about "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" has come.  

Dawn Rodgers and Eric Wyse co-wrote this song in 1989, and hundreds of recordings exist. Because of the beautiful  melody which lends itself so perfectly to harmony, I've loved every rendition I've heard. But as I said in my initial post, to allow me a peek into heaven, a song must be the perfect union between music and words. 

This past week, yet another school shooting occurred in the US. I cannot fathom a horror that guts us so completely as does the senseless slaying of innocents. As I reflected on this evil act, words from this hymn played over and over in my mind: "You offer hope when our hearts have hopelessly lost our way." 

In the raging battle over gun control, many social media posts have declared prayers are not enough; actions are required. I'm not weighing in on either side of the gun control argument, but I know this: Whatever action we do take will be totally ineffective if unaccompanied by prayer. It is only through prayer that we can cling to the hope of healing when it seems that as a country we have "hopelessly lost our way."

The second event that makes posting about this song timely is the temporary loss of Lucas Fabio as choir director at our church. The very person who awakened in me the beauty of this hymn and others, Lucas came from Brazil as a doctoral music student. In the time he has been with us, he has faithfully and lovingly worked with the choir to add inspiration and meaning to the traditional worship service. I have heard nothing but admiration for Lucas and his family in the years they have served our church. 

Sadly, the visas for the Fabio family are about to expire. Efforts are being made to secure permanent living for them in the US, but those efforts won't get through bureaucratic red tape before the visas run out. Later this week, the Fabios will return to Brazil.

I'm calling this loss "temporary," however, because I'm resting in the assurance that prayers will bring the Fabio family back to us soon. This isn't "Good-bye." It's "Farewell until you return."

This version of "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" is my favorite because I like the saxophone solo in the middle of it. This one is my daughter's favorite. There are many to choose from. Choose the one that "speaks" to you.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

My mother, Gladys Jo Robertson Fink, passed away on January 20, 2022. With family scattered far and wide, it took a while for relatives and friends to assemble in Yachats, Oregon, for a memorial service, but the day came at last. 

In 2013, my father Joseph Fink preceded Mama in death. We held a memorial service for him at the time but waited until Mama's passing to follow their wishes of having their ashes released into the ocean. On April 3, family and friends gathered on a temperate spring day at the banks of the Yachats River and let its gently flowing current carry Mama's and Daddy's earthly remains to the Pacific Ocean. Then we made our way to my sister’s house to remember the happy, sad, poignant, funny times that we had experienced with our mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, friend. 

Two circumstances alleviated the sadness of this occasion. The first was the long and productive life Mama had been granted. She was ninety-six at the time of her death, and most of her years had been healthy and active. Those who knew her often spoke of her humor, wit, love for family and friends, and—a word that came up often—“spunk.” 

Even in her later years, Mama's "spunk"
came through!

Mama had served as the inspiration behind many of my prize-winning contest essays and stories, all of which contained an element of her humor. In her last three years, however, failing health and progressing dementia deprived her of her enjoyment of life. She often mentioned to me she had “lived too long.” She was ready to depart this world for a better one.

The second circumstance to lessen the pain of Mama’s death was knowing of her steadfast faith. As a longtime Christian, she believed in life after earthly death—a life in which she would be reunited with loved ones; a life in which she would be released from the shackles of pain and fear brought on by age; a life in which she could spend eternity in the presence of her Savior. One Sunday when she was in her early nineties, she and my sister were leaving church where “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" had been sung. Hobbling along with the use of her walking stick—for her, a form of “chains”—Mama remarked, “I want that song sung at my funeral.” I know she was thinking of the day she could throw away that stick. 

Mama also loved the old gospel song “I’ll Fly Away,” finding great joy in the lively tune and comfort in the words of assurance of the better life awaiting her. The first comment I read on this rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” was “If this song isn’t sung at my funeral, I’m not going.” It sounded exactly like something Mama would say. 

As friends and relatives said our earthly farewells to Mama, the melodies and lyrics of these songs rang in our ears, reminding us of the hope and assurance Mama had. My prayer is that as you listen to them, you are reminded of the same.

Gladys Robertson Fink 1942; 2021