Thoughts from the journey… Excerpts from a day in the life of Sherry McLaughlin

6Nov/091

Sing a Song

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” –Johann Sebastian Bach

I’m a closet singer. You know, the kind of person who can really cut loose and get into the music—only in my car or an empty house. My dad, however, was quite the opposite. He was known for his beautiful tenor voice. His vocal chords served him well—right down to finding him a wife.

As the story goes, my mother was the pianist for the church choir my dad sang in. Each time they would meet for practice, my father would have one eyeball on the director, and one on my mother. It wasn’t long before they knew they were meant to be together. He was 16 and she was 14 and ten years later, they would be married.

They spent their honeymoon on a cruise ship and, of course, my father signed up for the talent show. I saw a picture of his performance. Standing boldly on stage, belting out a tune with my mom accompanying him on the piano, it was a sign of the future. That would be the first of many performances as a married couple.

There was hardly a day that went by that I didn’t hear him humming or singing. First thing in the morning, he would sing a tune in the shower. Funny thing is, rarely did he ever finish an entire song or know every single word. But that didn’t stop him. When he came to a part he forgot, he continued the melody, and without missing a beat, would fill in the missing words with a sound like, “Rrra, rrra, rrra…” Just like it was meant to be like that.

My brother and I often accompanied him to choir practice on Friday evenings. On the ride home, he would lead us out in song. You have never heard the Hallelujah Chorus until you’ve heard it sung in a station wagon with a tenor and two pre-adolescent kids. At least, you’ve never heard it quite like that. I imagine that Handel would be mortified. But the funny thing is, in the midst of the noise, God was glorified.

By the time I became pregnant with my son, my father had already become quite ill. Legally blind, battling congestive heart failure and kidney failure as complications of diabetes, we were praying he would live to see his first grandchild. I remember the day I brought Joshua over for his first visit with my dad. Feeble from a recent hospital stay, my father held up my son closely so he could see his face, and began to sing with a voice untouched by disease. It is a moment I will never forget.

Two and half years later, my son was diagnosed with autism. Amidst the confusion of such a revelation, it was my father who repeatedly said to me, “Don’t worry, Shei. He is smart. Just keep singing to him.” And with that he would hoist his grandson into his lap and shower him with music.

My son was virtually silent for the first 4 years of his life. He would ignore the human voice—you could literally be standing right next to him calling his name and not receive a response. Some thought he was deaf. But to those I would say, “Sing a song.” And the minute they did—he would look up and smile. A majority of his speech as a young child was in the form of music. My son, who is not conversational, could sing entire songs with perfect pitch and enunciation. It isn’t uncommon for him to dance in the middle of the sidewalk or tilt his head in appreciation of a tune. He snaps his fingers to songs on the car radio.

He feels the music—just like my dad did. In a world of silence, it speaks to his soul.

“Music expresses that which cannot be said

and on which it is impossible to be silent.”—Victor Hugo

Music is a universal language, just like food. We can all relate to it and even if we don’t understand the words, somehow we can understand the emotion. It was once said that, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

There is something healing about being able to belt out a tune with expression and fervor, even if you feel you can’t carry one. I believe it is one of the reasons cars and elevators were made to be sound proof. And if you are one of those who neither owns a car or rides in elevators alone regularly, there is always the woods or a mountain trail, where your only audience is God. He gave you that voice—I bet He’d enjoy hearing it every now and then.

Some would say my father suffered. But if you asked my dad, I’m sure he would have told you that he was blessed. His heart might have gone bad, and his eyesight lost. His legs were amputated and he was left bed ridden. But in the end, he still had his voice—that glorious tenor voice. A gift to him. A gift to this world.

It’s been years since I’ve heard him sing, but when I hear one of his favorite songs, his voice resonates in my head. This world is a better place because of my dad and his voice.

He sang for himself. He sang for others. He sang with a passion fueled by gratitude. Everyday. Often and loud—as if to make sure that the God that granted him that voice could enjoy the music, too.

Life Lesson #4

Don't let cars and sound proof elevators go to waste.

Sing a song.

Everyday.

Sing with gratitude, even if you don't feel like it.

I promise you, God loves to hear it...

And the sound just might touch a few lives on its way to the heavens.

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  1. I’ll never forget those “Dahil Sai Yo” moments…And speaking of his station wagon, I am another life blessed by his generosity. Food in abundance shared with gusto, a once in a lifetime trip to the Phillipines, and the “better than anything else” feeling that I was his favorite (after his own kids of course). But that was how he made everyone feel. Can’t wait to see him again…


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