By Dennis Edwards
New Journal and Guide
It was “smack dab” in the middle of her house at 406 Smith Street. A bonafide middle room. At one time it was the dining room between her living room, later converted to Grandma’s bedroom, and the kitchen.
There was a collapsible table next to one of its soft green walls, a china press on the other. Off the wall next to the kitchen sat an old heater with a cup of water balanced on vents, to give the heat moisture. But my favorite middle room spot was next to the window where Grandma’s rocking chair sat. It was nothing special by modern standards. Made of what we used to call pleather. It had the kindest squeak when she rocked.
After school Grandma would make sure I was secure and comfortable watching tv on her bed. Then she’d retreat to her rocking chair. Oh, the songs she sang while rocking. One of her favorites was “I Love To Tell The Story, of Unseen Days and Times, of Jesus and His Glory of Jesus and His Love.” Then she’d sing “He’s Sweet I Know,” “Lead Me Guide Me,” “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow.”
She sang them with a “Blessed Assurance” that quietly shredded my unsuspecting soul. I always wondered what was on Grandma’s mind when she sang that way. Was she missing my grandfather Papa Clem or her son (my father) who died too young?
Did she long for the mother and father who passed on long ago. Maybe she worried about her youngest daughter, Aunt Louise, who suffered from advancing dementia. Maybe she was celebrating what she had and who she had. Whatever the reason she took it all to the Lord in prayer in her Middle Room.
Isn’t it funny how things, people and places come back to us at the strangest times. Life evolving away from home is quite an adjustment. It caught up with me where ever I practiced the arts of Journalism and Ministry.
When marriages collapse under the strain of unseen illnesses, growing apart, the intrusion of outside influences or the presence of sheer intra family meanness. The result can shatter an accomplished life from center to circumference. In the middle of moments like that, when prayer is the only refuge for a tumbling soul, the Lord does what only He can do. He pulls back the vale between then and now. Suddenly I am in the middle room and in the presence of the sweetest woman I’ve ever known.
With every question and worry, I hear the squeak of Grandma’s old rocking chair. With every why and why not I hear Grandma’s voice singing “The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow, when beneath the cross I bow.” With every fear I hear her “Blessed Assurance Jesus Is Mine.” With every doubt about preaching and how to blend it with a career in Journalism I here her sing “I Love To Tell The Story.”
I hear her voice from the other side singing a lyric reminder that centers my soul through every uncertain second in life. Whatever you do “Tell The Story Boy, Tell The Story.”
I learned to tell the story from pulpits all over the country. And to tell the stories of people whose tragedies I covered with a camera from Richmond to St. Louis, Raleigh, Detroit and Baltimore. People who spoke with me about their faith while the body of a son or daughter lay lifeless on the street outside their door.
I learned the story in that middle room where Grandma sang her faith in the resurrected Lord. Her songs are the background music of my life. The sound track that drives the rhythm of my thoughts. I suspect the serenade will never stop. Who knows from the middle room it maybe that the Lord will allow her voice to sing me home one day.
Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award winning Television Investigative Journalist.He is a graduate of Suffolk High School, Virginia Union University and it’s Samuel Proctor School of Theology. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.