I’ve been surrounded by music my whole life. My dad is a band teacher and a piano tuner, my grandpa wrote music, played the guitar and harmonica Dylan style before there was a Dylan. The highlight of every Christmas Eve was the family talent show and sing-along. All of this naturally led me to become….an artist. Right, I know. But you have to understand, as much as I love music, I also have a pretty serious problem with performance anxiety. Piano lessons were fine, but since I never figured out how to read the music and did everything by ear, when it came time to perform in front of people my over-distressed senses would crash and it would all come out wrong. No way was I going to join the band. I really enjoyed choir, but by the time I got to high school, I had figured out that I could be an okay artist. Art is a pretty solitary pursuit, with a lower of level of anxiety attached to it. Music was shoved to the side. I was left at an interesting level. I have a very good ear, but not much actual musical knowledge to back it up.

This brings me to ward choir. Much can be said about ward choir, it won’t be said here. Sometimes I stay away from the choir, sometimes I’m guilted into it, and sometimes I enjoy it. Sometimes we really suck, sometimes we’re okay, sometimes it seems that angels come and join in, bringing a sound and spirit that was definitely not there at practice.

I joined back up after a two year break because I wanted the chance to sing Christmas music. I enjoy the worship aspect that is involved as I stretch myself to sing praises to God. Our choir was huge for the Christmas program. We sounded pretty good. After Christmas, I felt like I had to keep going, but more than half the choir didn’t feel the same. Now we are pretty pathetic little bunch. We had begun to work on the Easter program music when my father-in-law went from a sore throat to a diagnosis of terminal anaplastic thyroid cancer in 3 weeks. This was devastating for our family. Terry is a robust, energetic man. A legendary backpacker, basketball player and referee, an extraordinary grandpa, scout leader of 40+ years, a craftsman, a photographer and a singer with a beautiful, rumbly deep bass voice.

We’ve spent the last 2 weeks in a whirlwind of doctors, phone calls and visits with people who want to see Terry before it gets too horrible. For me, this news coming on the tail end of the previous month which was a similar whirlwind of diagnosis and treatment for my mom who has breast cancer, proved to be a bit much for me. I could feel myself closing in and shutting down. I was filled with anxiety and sadness. I did not go to choir practice.

Yesterday I felt the guilt driving me back. I’m sure the 2 altos, 2 sopranos, 2 tenors and 1 bass (who had to play the piano because our accompanist didn’t show up) were glad to see me, even though I didn’t come with a very good attitude. Then an interesting thing happened when we started singing. I felt my heart start to open up. I felt the Spirit wrap around me in a warm hug. I felt the words we were singing sink deep into all my pain, anxiety, and sadness and cover them like a bandage over a wound. “When I am bound, and held by chains, He’ll wipe each tear, and take each pain. He’ll ease each grief, restore my soul, on wings again to soar, that I may rise eternally, in Him I’m truly free. He lives, My Savior lives!” (My Savior Lives, Words by Gary Croxall, Music by Kathleen Holyoak)  I struggled to keep singing and hold in the tears so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself in front of my fellow choir members as I thought about Terry, about how he couldn’t sing any more, but how he was at peace with everything that was happening, how he soon will be free of this life and the pain that he is in, and even better, free eternally because of the good man that he is, the life that he has lead, and most importantly, through the Atonement of our Savior, which covers our human mistakes, and the pains of our bodies and our souls.

I’m still sad, but now I don’t feel like that sadness is going to break me in half. Who knew peace and healing could come from going to ward choir?

 "Mountains To Climb"