“I’m sorry,” Betty Jean Brower said, holding firmly to her father’s arm, as Mary Lou Whitfield opened the front door. “His home nurse had an emergency tonight and I really couldn’t miss out on the prayer group. I absolutely felt impelled to come tonight. I promise he won’t be a bother.”
“Don’t you go being silly now,” Mary Lou said in her thick honey southern accent. “You both come on in now. He’s more than welcome.”
Mary Lou had rearranged the drawing room so that the prayer group sat in a circle in the center of the room. Everyone was already there and seated.
Betty stepped into the circle and said, “This is my daddy. His name’s Bill. He’s 83 years old and he was a minister up north in the Appalachia’s for more than 50 years.”
“Hey Bill, welcome!” a few of the group said. They got an empty stare and no response in return.
“Alzheimer’s,” Betty said quietly, moving her father to chair and sitting down in another next to him. She reached out and took his hand in hers.
“Time for us to get started,” Mary Jane said, stepping into the circle. She clasped her hands together, bowed her head, and began a quick prayer. After that, they went around the room and everyone spoke out their prayer list of requests for that night. When they were finished, David Whitmore stood and began the prayer.
Betty watched him from the corner of her eye as she bowed her head to pray along. She also prayed that he’d notice her tonight. Her situation with a father to care for didn’t lend itself to many dates or much romance. David was single, good looking, and also happened to be the new manager of two bank branches in town.
David’s voice was firm and strong as he began lifting up the individual prayer requests. Everyone in the group then began praying out loud, filling the room with sound and voices.
Betty suddenly felt her father’s had pull away and he started clapping. Then he began to sing.
Tears filled her eyes and, after a moment, she began to sing the song along with him. There were no words to the song. They sang the notes in syllables, “fa-so-la, fa-so-la, fa-so-la-me-so.”
Then, to everyone’s surprise, David joined them, clapping and singing along as they worshiped together through song their Lord and God.
David moved over by Betty and said, “Idumea.” She nodded and sang back at him, “Fairfield next and we always finish with Golden Trumpet.” He nodded and they effortlessly moved from one song to another, finally finishing with the wonderful old, Golden Trumpet. Bill sang the low notes and carried the beat by loudly thumping his foot on the floor. Finally, exhausted, he slumped back in his chair.
The room was silent for a long moment.
“My God, what was that? It was absolutely beautiful.” Mary Lou said, leaning forward in her chair.
“It’s called Sacred Harp,” Betty said, again taking her father’s hand in hers. “It’s a form of a-cappella shape-note hymn singing. It’s hundreds of years old and they sing it in the old wooden churches high up in the Appalachia’s. Churches filled with hard-working simple people who couldn’t read words or music, or play instruments, but were filled with the love of God and gave their voices up to worship him. That was my father’s church and we sang Sacred Harp there for many years.”
Mary Lou walked over and put her arm around Betty. David stood and led the closing prayers and when they were finished all got ready to leave.
“I’m so glad you brought your father tonight. It was a real blessing,” Mary Lou said to Betty, as everyone stood and walked toward the door. “Yes, thank you for tonight,” David agreed coming up beside them. “I came from up in those mountains too. I’d forgotten the music, the songs, and how much I missed home.”
Mary Lou opened the door and David stepped close to Betty. “I’d like to talk with you sometime about home, perhaps over coffee?”
“I’d like that,” Betty said, stepping outside with her father.
“I’ll call,” David said, turning away toward his car.
Betty pulled her father’s arm tight against her.
“Thank you God,” she said to the stars, “for a wonderful evening and a wonderful memory. God is great!”
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