Music is a powerful catalyst to evoking a memory.
Someday, when I’m 102 and sitting around the social hall at the nursing home, some old fogey who’s retired and out volunteering but not yet old enough for my chair will come in with an antique electric guitar and start playing “Beth” by Kiss, and I’ll start chattering on and on about some short boy named Chris and how I slow-danced with him while he stood on a chair in the junior high cafeteria during a Friday night dance in seventh grade. “Where’s Chris? I don’t want to dance with a short boy. And why are the lights on? Turn off the lights!” And then I’ll start singing along: “Beth, I hear you calling but I can’t come home right now. …”
And the nurse’s aides, who are 20something and standing around eldersitting us, will roll their genetically engineered eyes and text to each other, “God, I hate it when we play the oldies around here and the old ladies just won’t shut up.”
Something like that anyway.
While I was sitting in Ash Wednesday service tonight, we sang “Just As I Am, Without One Plea” and I was suddenly struck with thoughts of my sister. Not sure why that hymn reminds me of my sister who I would describe as a God-loving Christian who is, at best, lukewarm about going to church.
I think she had to learn that hymn as a child for some public event having to do with church or school, and she wandered around the house for weeks singing those lyrics. I called her to get the 411 (“Good for you for going to church,” she said), and she can’t remember either, but she immediately started reciting the lyrics.
Music is like that. I can remember all 50 U.S. states because of a song. I know the words to 1 John 4: 7-8 because I learned the verses set to music at Lutheran Island Camp when I was 12. And I think of a freakishly short kid named Chris when I hear Kiss.
At least I think his name was Chris.
Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
~ Charlotte Eliot