I’m typically a very cynical person. I’ve seen the worst of people in almost every situation but during those times that I’m feeling exceedingly cynical and pessimistic, God taps me on the shoulder and shows me a person that is utterly amazing. Today I had one of these experiences. I was visiting with a family who is being considered as a placement for some relative children. I walked into a clean and orderly…and very modest home. As I’m getting my computer out of it’s case and sitting down on what is clearly furniture that has been passed down at least one generation, I heard a radio playing in the back room. I looked to the woman sitting on a chair in front of me and was about to ask if there was someone else in the home and she told me her grandmother was staying with them. She had been staying with another family member in Central Texas somewhere but as a family they were taking turns having her in their homes so now it was her turn and the grandmother was going to be with them for the next six months.
I started interviewing the couple and the radio continued in the back room. I asked the woman how old her grandmother was and I let her know that since she was living in the home I was going to have to interview her. She said that wouldn’t be a problem but I would probably have trouble understanding her because she had suffered a stroke several years back and her speech was mumbled. I told her, “not a problem, I’ll just say hello to her and ask her simple yes and no questions that she can shake her head to.” A few minutes later I heard a familiar tune come on the radio. This was one of those Oldies/Christian stations that plays instrumental music most of the time. The tune sounded very familiar and like a wave it hit me. I remembered the tune. It was a hymn that I hadn’t heard in years, “In the Garden.” Several years ago I heard a remake of this song by a country and western artist but it wasn’t this version that I remembered. It was the version that I heard as a child sitting in the pew at church.
I continued with my interview and a few seconds later I heard what initially sounded like this soft mumbling sound of this old woman singing along with this old hymn. Within seconds that soft mumbling noise that this woman was making mixed with my memories and it sounded like an angel singing the words from that song as crisply and clearly as I remember my mother’s voice on Sunday morning. I remembered every word and as I typed the responses that were being given to me, I faded in and out of paying attention to the couple in front of me to the beautiful singing of this 93 year old woman in the back room. Here’s the words to the song:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.
As the angel in the back room got halfway through the first verse, I told the couple that I needed to stop. I told them that this was a song I grew up with and the sound of their grandmother singing was distracting…but in a good way. I asked to meet her and we walked down the hallway. Her soft singing became a little louder as we walked up to the halfway closed door just at the moment that she came to the chorus, “And He walks with me and He talks with me.” The woman pushed the door open and said, “Grandmother, there’s a man here to meet you.” This 93 year old angel was sitting in her wheelchair and caught a little off guard she smiled in embarrassment.
I told her, “Don’t be embarrassed, that’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard and I’ve never heard it sung more beautifully than I did just now.” She beamed a huge smile with the left side of her face as she said, “thank you.” What would have been an otherwise mumbled voice, I heard perfectly. The woman told her grandmother, “Grandmother, he’s got a few questions to ask you” and she nodded her head in agreement. I told her, “I don’t have any questions, I’m going to finish my interview with your granddaughter and you can continue singing.” She lifted her left arm up letting me know that she wanted to give me a hug and as I bent over to allow her to hug me, she said, “God bless you and the work you do.” To me, at that moment, those words came out as clear as day. My eyes welled up a little and I told her, “It was such a pleasure meeting you.”
I don’t know anything about this woman’s past. I don’t know where she’s been or anything about her life but I could tell that she had a heart of gold beating underneath that elderly shell. Her granddaughter told me that she had been nothing but a pleasure since she’d been in the home and they didn’t expect that they would want to see her go but the other family members wanted to have their time with her. This wasn’t a woman that was being passed around between family members because she was a burden but she was a ray of sunshine that everyone in the family wanted to experience. The 93 year old woman in a wheelchair mumbling while she sings, “And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me that I am His own.”