Friday, December 19, 2014

The Miraculous Gift

"You know she was Laurie from Oklahoma!--on Broadway," my friend confided. "She's struggled with her health for a long time, and she never thought she would sing again, but I convinced her to sing "O Holy Night" in church. She will get you the music." It wasn't really a request.

I've been asked to accompany vocal solos in sacrament meeting more times than I can count, and "O Holy Night" is a common Christmas choice. Bass, tenor, soprano--I've played them all, including a piano solo arrangement that I pull out on occasion.

Somehow, this performance felt different. I was nervous. I've never played for a professional before. L has her own CD and has been singing forever. I stressed out whenever I pulled out her music to practice. Would she hear every incorrect note and feel every miscounted beat? Was my playing up to her standards? Would I bring her performance down?

We had one very short rehearsal--so short, in fact, that we never ran through the song completely. It was during that practice session that it hit me. She is a small, bespectacled lady with wispy hair and a quiet manner. What came out of her astounded me. Her voice is a gift--the most gifted singer I've ever played for. I found myself struggling to keep my attention on the sheets before me because I was so distracted listening to her effortlessly reach ever higher notes. It was beautiful.

As I drove her home, she glossed over some of her health problems: loss of peripheral vision, short-term memory loss, along with the sickness that has left her body weak and disobedient to her wishes. "I didn't think I would ever be able to sing again, and I am so grateful I still can. Thank you for helping me."

I didn't know what to say. You're welcome just wasn't enough, but it was all I could say.

On Sunday, she caught my eye as she walked into the chapel. "Ready?" I asked. "I think so," she said. It rang not of uncertainty but of humility. I followed her to the podium, positioned myself at the piano, and waited for her to fill the chapel with sound.

I can't describe that moment in time, but it is one I will never forget. The beautiful melody. The captive congregation. Most of all, the pure joy she radiated as she sang. I was honored to be part of it.

When the meeting was over, I waited my turn behind all of her admirers so I could return her music. I listened to the congratulations and smiled at the hugs. Then I heard her speak, and her words hit my heart.

"I never thought I would ever sing again, and I am so grateful that God didn't take my gift away." With that, it was my turn.

I reached down to hug her and return her music. "Thank you so much for playing for me." I didn't know what to say. All I could muster was, "Any time." And I meant it.

God has given all of us gifts to share with the world. Gifts of music and artistry. Gifts of athletic feats and discourse. Gifts of kindness and listening. At this time of year, it is easy to let presents overshadow true gifts we can give to those we love--time around the piano singing carols or around the tree sharing stories. We never know when our ability to share these gifts may be gone.

Six more days. How have your shared your gifts with those around you this Christmas season? There's still time.


  1. This was beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your gift daily!

  2. I loved this, Jen. Absolutely loved it in every way.

    Thanks. And merry Christmas.