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I Heard the Bells, Part 1

Through the Years

It was the first Christmas season following "9/11".... I was scheduled to play and sing at a Christmas program early in December. The evening would be an outreach event sponsored by the Women's group at our church. They had planned to have Lucinda Secrest McDowell --She called herself "Cindy" (an author from New England) as their guest speaker.

The event happened to be scheduled two days before our Loving Grace Ministries yearly Christmas Seminar, at which I am usually prepared to sing at least one Christmas solo.

In this particular program, I was supposed to sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as a solo. We had chosen this song since the women were reaching out to their friends, and the theme of friendship and coming together seemed appropriate. When I sing this song, I like to change one of the lines slightly to say: "Through the years, we all will be together, if the Lord allows"....


We Will All Be Together

As I was practicing the song this particular year, I often found myself crying; because it kept pointing out to me how UN-merry I was feeling this year.

It had only been three months since the original "September 11th". Also, several of my dear friends had lost family members in the months prior to that Christmas. I found myself overwhelmed by the knowledge of how very many people wouldn't have their "loved ones" with them this year.

And then, for the first time in a LONG time, I even started getting melancholy myself, missing OUR loved ones. (Our family lost two of my siblings during our "young adult" years.)


I Heard the Bells

I have several songs that I enjoy playing/singing at this time of year. Besides the one mentioned above, I frequently sing "O Holy Night", or a song that my husband Bob and I wrote a few years back ("Treasured").

There are other songs that I do less often. When I choose to sing these songs, they need added practice to "work them up", since they are only played during one season of the year.

When we were first choosing songs for the Ladies' evening, I had forgotten about a song that I had done in the past. As I was practicing a couple of days prior to that evening though, for some reason I remembered the song, called "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". I thought I'd pull it out and "dust it off".


Therapeutic Tears

As I played it, again the tears flowed. This time though, the song's tears were more therapeutic, because the words said exactly what I was feeling.

I thought: "THIS is the song that I should be doing this year!". Since the Ladies night was so close, and all arranged, I thought it was probably not my place to be coming in and changing their plans, so I didn't mention it.

I decided to begin working on it, however, to have it prepared for our Loving Grace event a couple of days later. I usually sing "O Holy Night" there, because the people love it so much; but I wanted to have this special song ready for this particular year.


A Memorable Evening

Finally, the day came for the Ladies's Christmas event. It was an absolutely beautiful night. The women had decorated the room with taste and elegance. There were delicious refreshments, and a program including Lucinda's speech, Christmas Carols and a couple of solos (including mine).

I was delighted to have some friends attend as guests, and many friends from church with whom to spend the evening. Lucinda happened to sit at our table. She seemed very friendly. She had driven down from Connecticut that day, and was scheduled to stay overnight at the home of one of my dear friends.

Halfway through the evening, she got up to speak. She was delightfully funny, and spoke of special memories that could remind us of the true meaning of Christmas. She related how she uses things associated with Christmas, such as a special ornament, or even the baby Jesus in the crèche to remind her of hope, joy, etc.

While focusing on the "baby Jesus", she spoke of the hope that a baby can bring. She recounted a section in one of her books that spoke about the year 1809, which was a very bleak year when "a ruthless dictator seemed certain to conquer the world...."

It also happened to be the year in which Lincoln was born, as well as many other famous and influential men. It contrasted the hopelessness of the situation, with the promise of the child being born at the same time.


A Rather Unknown Carol

She seemed to enjoy compiling little stories, recipes, and songs relating to Christmas, to make her points. Near the end of her time, she began talking about a certain, rather unknown Christmas Carol that had a special meaning for her this Christmas. She realized that this year might be a really hard one for a lot of people....

For the next several minutes, she went on about this song, and then began to recite and finally sing the song (as she would later tell my friend "I'm NO singer, but I just HAD to sing it")... "I heard the bells...".


November 27, 2004

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