Prairie Moments: Precious Memories
Dad’s life changed forever on New Year’s Eve, 1994.
Dad, at age 76 had led an active, healthy life, having just recently given up making saddles while continuing to barber in Highmore one day a week. That night he had taken his shower early and was settling in to watch some TV before going to bed. A crushing chest pain sent him to the hospital in Pierre, and a plane ride took him to Sioux Falls the next day with his condition deteriorating by the hour.
Several tense days ensued, with us not knowing if Dad was going to survive his heart attack. He had lost the bottom half of his heart and doctors told us people hardly ever survive without that part of that powerful muscle. Dad, because of prayers and God’s saving grace, did. The doctors said there could be no other reason. They were in awe and wonder as much as we were about his surviving the attack. He was still a sick man, but he was alive, and lived another five years.
Our evenings in Sioux Falls were spent with Dad, then going to our rooms to read or watch TV. One night we passed through the quiet waiting room and heard strains of three part harmony coming from a darkened corner. Mom’s interest was immediate, recognizing the song as one she and her sisters sang as children when they went to the Black Creek Baptist Church in Florida where their dad was the preacher. She sat down near the singers to soak up the long forgotten sounds of home.
The singers were two brothers and a sister, there because their dad had also suffered a major heart attack and was struggling for life. They had all flown in from their homes in different parts of the country, being together for the first time in many years. Singing gospel songs was part of their growing up , and those moments when the family gathered and sang three and four part harmony, usually a cappella, were held deep in their memories of their father. Their family harmony, although rusty from non-use, was pure, and the rust soon disappeared. They sang in a soft, reverent tone, with feelings of delight and love coming through. Song after song, without hesitation, came from that corner, with my mom almost sitting in their laps, wanting to burn that beautiful sound into her mind. Their dad kept getting worse, and they blunted their sorrow with the prayerful sounds of the songs they all loved. He passed the day we took Dad home.
I think of that family often, of the sweet harmony they had, of the beauty the music voiced, and the love of family it represented to them. My mom taught me as a youngster to sing many of the hymns they sang in that waiting room those nights, beautiful melodies I still sing and hum, almost every day. They give me hope, joy and comfort in good times and bad, but most of all they are full of “Precious Memories” of family and faith. I smile when I think of that family, firm in their belief that someday their dad will sing the bass part with them again.