Cross, by Honor Marks (used by permission,

In the late 1980s my mom’s choir was invited to sing at Carnegie Hall. We made a weekend of it—shopping at Saks, trying on couture hats at Henri Bendel, eating at Sardis. Choir crescendos make me teary — I can’t explain it — but those choreographed voices, layered, swirling, interwoven, resonate someplace deep. Suffice it to say I was teary, and proud.

I was proud several summers ago when mom and her choir came here to Spoleto, and filled St. Michael’s Church with the familiar voices I’d grown up hearing—neighbors and a cousin or two who were far from American Idol contenders, just aging Methodists capitalizing on the power of numbers.

But I’m most proud now when I imagine Mom each Wednesday at choir practice, and each Sunday, as she still puts on the red and white satiny robe and processes down the aisle, hymnal held like a guiding light in front of her. She can barely speak, her tongue weak and obstinate, her words a cottony jumble of flat intonations that refuse to carry their weight. But still she “sings,” lipsyncing like a god-fearing Ashley Simpson. And it’s the most beautiful music in the world, this hymn to the unspoken, this silenced anthem of praise to all that is holy, and all that heals. She may not carry a tune, but the choir is carrying her, and vice versa. And isn’t that all we can do, carry each other? 

I’ve never been prouder of her—a lone alto, preaching to the choir.


~ by Stephanie on 01/25/2010.

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