For you shall go out in joy, And be led forth in peace; The mountains and the hills before you shall break out in singing, and all the trees of the field shall Clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)
In the summer of 1972, I found myself in a rural area of West Virginia, north of Charleston. I was assigned to assist several small parishes and their youth. The memory of that time is hanging in the hallway of my mind.
I met Dr. Frank Taylor, a newly retired Methodist minister, during my first week there. Frank was a well-sought-after pastor and leader of large congregations. At the age of 50, he suffered a massive stroke while preaching on a Sunday morning.
Frank welcomed my visits. Due to his stroke he could not speak, except to say “Yes.” His daughter asked me if I would come to take Frank on a weekly walk. Frank was unsteady and always took my arm with his, the one that still functioned. We slowly walked for an hour in a meadow below the high hills and near a stream, a favorite place of his. I would chatter things about church, the day’s news stories, baseball, and my new career in the ministry. Frank would simply smile and say “yes.”
One particularly beautiful morning I told Frank how much these walks meant to me. He did not reply his usual “yes,” but immediately broke out in song, “Just A Closer Walk with Thee.” He sang every word and every verse on his own in a lovely, strong voice.
I later learned that hymn singing was simply something Frank overlearned and his stroke amplified that part of his brain where music is stored.
Over the summer we continued our walks together and I remember how the singing brought us closer to God and each other.
Rev. Rich Kirschner
NUCC Member and Retired Minister
Going the Distance Guest Contributor
Prayer Focus: Those struggling through difficult times
Prayer: For moments and memories that we cherish, we give thanks to you, most Gracious God. When hard times and difficult days surround us, help us to break out in remembered songs. Amen.