It came as no surprise when Ida May died. This feisty woman lived to be 99 years old. She lived a good life--married, raised a family, and spent much of her life building an elaborate doll collection. Ida May’s family was at her bedside helping her through the last struggles of life. I knew Ida May through my husband’s family. Now she was gone and I was asked to sing Amazing Grace at her funeral service—a celebration of her life. Although I agreed to sing at her service, I began having second thoughts.
This was to be my first time singing at a funeral. I don’t like funerals. There is usually too much sorrow and open caskets. Remembering back to my own family funerals…there was grandma’s open casket. Then a few years later, my grandpa’s open casket funeral. Standing in line to view the body is not how I want to remember the people I loved. It’s the fond memories of loved ones I’ll keep for a lifetime.
I was also concerned about my own grief. I visualized myself standing in front of the congregation sniffling through a chorus of Amazing Grace. Putting feelings aside, I was doing this for Ida May’s family. Little did I know this would be the most memorable funeral service that I would ever attend, let alone participate.
The funeral service was held near Westby, Wisconsin, a picturesque Scandinavian agricultural community in western Wisconsin where Ida May grew up. I stayed with the family at a local hotel until it was time to drive to the church. I was practicing my singing scales—“do, rei, me, fa, so, la,” etc., and wondering how the morning was going to progress.
Even though I had knots in my stomach, I kept thinking about what the Bible said about trusting the Lord in all things. Silently I whispered a quick prayer and decided to trust God with the rest of the day.
It was time to leave for the church. Stepping outside the hotel, I noticed it was really a beautiful winter’s day. There was about six inches of fresh snow on the ground. It was bitterly cold though, at least 15 degrees above zero. What caught my eye was the sky. It was the most brilliant turquoise blue sky I had ever seen. The sunrays bouncing off the snow made it appear as if there were diamonds embedded in the snow. Not one cloud did I see. I thanked God for such a dazzling day.
When arriving to the church, I was pleasantly surprised. The building was a small, whitewashed country church with an adjacent cemetery. Tall pine trees adorned the church property. I discovered that the church was built in the late 1800’s and that many of Ida May’s ancestors were laid to rest in the neighboring cemetery.
Walking the steps into the church I was impressed by the charm of the sanctuary. The sun was brightly streaming through the high oblong windows making it unnecessary for extra light. One could even see the trees. The bare floor was polished hardwood. The pews were an elegant, polished oak wood. In front of the sanctuary was a simple raised platform with a small lectern. There was no modern equipment—no sound system, not even a microphone. Noticing this, I was a little concerned if my voice would project well. I decided it wasn’t an issue. Just then a peace came over me as I sat down in a pew. I knew in my heart that I was destined to be there.
The family and friends who attended the service were very pleasant. During the service they spoke fondly of Ida May. Some reminiscing of childhood days spent in Wisconsin. One discussed what Ida May might be doing in heaven. Others talked about their own experiences of loved ones who have gone on before them.
When it was my turn to sing, the peace within me continued. I walked to the platform and sang, a cappella, Amazing Grace. Even though I didn’t have a microphone, the acoustics in the church carried my voice so everyone could hear. It was a sacred occasion I’ll never forget. Trusting the Lord with the outcome calmed my fears and allowed everything to fall into place.