Rev. Piazza recently asked if his readers might be willing to share an insight or an “ah-ha” as a Liberating Word to give him a bit of a break while he focuses on his husband Bill, but still allow us to share a word of hope every day with hundreds of fellow travelers. Thank you to Karen Lilli Pax, a Methodist pastor serving two small churches in mid-coast Maine, for today’s Liberating Word. Before entering ministry, Karen also was a professional singer and choral director.
For the past three years, I’ve been conducting a choir of retired folks at a retirement community in coastal Maine. Residents are from all over, with wildly different backgrounds, but they share a common love of music and, most especially, singing.
Almost two years ago, one of my sopranos was having trouble with a leg, a persistent infection that would not heal. She used a walker and moved stiffly, but she never complained. Eventually, she had to have the leg amputated, and I went to see her at the hospital. I was nervous about going. What do you say to someone who has just lost a limb? How do you not stare at the bed where something used to be and now there is nothing? I bought her a bar of organic chocolate, and made my way to her room.
She was asleep. I gazed at her countenance, angelic in sleep. Her eyes opened, darted around the room, and rested on my face. She smiled. She said she was sorry she couldn’t sing in chorale just now, and I assured her we would keep her chair warm. Her eyes welled up with tears as she struggled to speak. “You have no idea how much singing means to me,” she said.
I smiled. “Oh … I think I do.”
Months later, she did come back to the choir. She sat in the front row in a wheelchair with one bright red Mary Jane shoe.
A few months ago she sent me an email, nearly a year and a half after her surgery. “I keep thinking about when you visited me in the hospital,” she wrote. “I was so worried about what my life would look like. And when I woke up and saw you standing there beside me, I felt a deep peace. I knew everything was going to be alright.”
Little did she know that, at that moment, I felt my greatest asset was chocolate. It made me realize that we don’t need to know what to do. We can’t fix things for people, but we can give them dignity by being with them.
We are here to witness and to bless. We can honor them with our company, and that’s a powerful thing.
Karen Lilli Pax