Sunday, January 23, 2011

Amazing Grace

What an amazing experience I had last night.  It was a full circle moment if ever there was one.  And it was so significant to me that words may fail.  They often do in trying to describe moments that touch my heart so deeply.  I have been in several situations where "there are no words" is deeply true.  This may be one of them, but because I want to keep it documented, I must try.

Alex played yesterday with the Northwest Wind Symphony, rehearsing all day, concert yesterday evening.  I knew what they would be playing, I saw the music come in via email.  I saw the line up on the website.  But for some reason the true significance didn't occur to me.  I heard him run through some of his parts here at home, and it still didn't hit me.

It slowly dawned on me throughout the day, but I was woefully unprepared for how it would strike me.

We got to Centralia early, for his dinner break, and we all went out for dinner.  He was wiped out.  Something about the mid-range, long notes, very tired embouchure.  But he was excited for how everything came together.  He said it was going to be a pretty cool concert.  And, uh, yeah.  It was "pretty cool".

Once we got to our seats, I read through the program.  The program was titled "Liturgies".  Each piece had a program note that beautifully described the significance or impact of the arrangement they were presenting.  I love reading where something familiar came from, the significance it had when it was written.  The pieces built together in a beautiful way.  I could write an entire post about the "Alleluia" arrangement and its history.  Gave me chills.

So the evening progressed and built, and we came to playing of Amazing Grace.  Here are the program notes:

"Literally hundreds of composers have scored John Newton's Amazing Grace for chorus, orchestra, wind ensemble, and as a solo.  Composer Frank Ticheli had this to say about it.  'I wanted my setting of Amazing Grace to reflect the powerful simplicity of the words and melody - to be sincere, to be direct, to be honest - and not through the use of novel harmonies and clever tricks, but by traveling traditional paths in search of truth and authenticity.  I believe that music has the power to take us to a place that words alone cannot.  And so my own feelings about Amazing Grace reside in this setting itself.  The harmony, texture, orchestration, and form are inseparable, intertwined so as to be perceived as a single expressive entity.'"

And with that, I sat and listened, for the first time, to my son participate in the playing of Amazing Grace.  My all-time, hands-down, without-a-doubt favorite song.  A song that has meant so much to me during some tough times and some good times.  And, here's the mom's favorite song.  Here's where I will begin the attempt at finding words, where there may be none:

As my mom was in the end stages of her life, I spent a lot of time with her.  It was precious time to have together, and heartbreaking time to have together.  I was so thankful that I was able to be a part of her daily life and help in so many ways, and I was so sad that I needed to be a part of her daily life and help her in so many ways.  It was a tough time.  And mixed in with that time had been an almost 2-year struggle to have a baby.  The last 7 months of my mom's life, I had my first baby growing inside me.  The epitome of grace.  While my mom's life was very slowly fading away, my firstborn was very slowly growing strong enough to begin his life.

The day my mom died, I had an OB appointment.  To say I was under stress was an understatement.  They followed my blood pressure, and they did an ultrasound.  It was suddenly very important to know if this baby was a boy or a girl.  I had to know the baby's name.  So as they looked around, my doctor found what he was looking for, and congratulated us on our baby girl!  A girl!  And her name?  Grace!  No other name seemed appropriate to us.  That was Grace in my belly.  A belly full of grace.  It seemed so fitting.  I had been singing Amazing Grace my entire pregnancy.  I sang it to my mom.  I played it for my mom.  I sang it alone.  I played it through my house daily. 

Then my mom's memorial service, where it was, of course, sung.  So much Amazing Grace over those months:  I am living, breathing proof that it is physically impossible to desensitize yourself to the powerful tenderness of that song.

Fast-forward to the long-awaited birth of my baby, and the only people on this planet that "knew" it was a girl were Brad, me, and my doctor.  We had told no one.  We wanted to enjoy the knowledge of it before we shared it with anyone.  Finally that little brutus emerged, and my doctor said, "Oh!  It's a boy!!"  And my honest reaction, in the deepest part of my heart, was, "Well, of course it is!"  I was so thrilled.  It was so very....right.  This little man...we wouldn't call him Grace, but he still represented grace.  He was hope, all bundled up in 8 pounds and 7.5 ounces...

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures
This was the good, the hope, that followed a lot of bad in my life.  I threw myself into being a momma, and was so very thankful for the new life.  And I sang Amazing Grace over this little man from the start.  I played it in the house, I sang it while I rocked him.  He had heard it so much in my belly, I just by then figured it was "our song".
So last night.  As I reflected back on this song, the meaning to me, the significance it has played in my life, I was overcome when it began.  I focused in on watching Alex play.  I imagined my mom being there to hear it, how she would have loved it.  She had this agonizingly embarrassing habit of shushing people in a room when a song she loved came on, and she'd close her eyes and "conduct" the song with her hands.  I can only imagine how she would have closed her eyes last night and let the music wash over her.  And she maybe would have even raised her hands to help conduct.
Hearing him play this song felt so very full-circle.  We've come so very far since those difficult times.  I can't believe it's been that long, and I'm so sad that it's been that long since I've seen my mom.  But life has been so good.  The Lord's promise of "good to me" has been so fulfilled.  He has been so good to me.  Life is so good, and that was all beautifully illustrated last night with the playing of a very simplistic version of Amazing Grace.
I was so absorbed in the moment, it didn't occur to me to record it until the very end.  I got a pathetic little snippet of it, but I will still forever remember this night, and the impact of hearing Alex play this for the first time. 
Crummy camera work, but that's understandable.  I love to see that sweet face playing that sweet sound.
And then we got in the van to head home and I finally let the tears flow and told him how much that meant to me and why.
It amazes me that a gift of music was put inside this young man. 

Back two generations, a Grandma who never got to meet him.  A song that tied me and my mom together.  A song that ministered to me.  A child born with a gift of music.  And a young man who then has opportunity to play that song so beautifully.

A full circle indeed.


  1. Oh rats, I'm crying again today! It's ok, these are good tears. I just read somewhere that sometimes God lets us wash our eyes so we can see things more clearly. Thanks for sharing this circle you just completed. Love you!

  2. Leanne, you made me cry again. Beautifully written and expressed.

    Thank you,

  3. Ok, the tears, the tears....full circle, what a day! I love this Leanne, I love you. Now I need to go blow my nose and wipe my tears so I can go run.....and cry some more. It also makes me want to get on a plane and go see my mom right now. Right now!


  5. Here I am at work reading your blog with tears in my eyes and students all around me...
    God's Grace really is Amazing. After Chase being on his tour in Australia and being around Steve Grace singing all those historical hymns he too has found such an appreciation for that song...
    God is so good!