River of Life

Then the angel showed me the river of life giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb down middle of the street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.                                                                                 Rev. 1-2 New American Bible St. Joseph Edition

Kneeling in the pew after receiving the Eucharist two Sundays ago, I heard the voices of a small choir singing an old hymn, Shall We Gather at the River. Without warning emotions burst through my composure and tears streamed down my cheeks. I had not heard the hymn in a long time; it was a favorite of my grandmother who sang a number of her favorites during each day as she worked sweeping, baking, weeding, picking raspberries, watering her Gloxinia plants etc. She passed on some years ago.

For the first three years of my life my mom and I lived with my grandparents on a typical family farm in Pennsylvania while my father fought in the second World War. I spent summers there working with Grandma and a bond remained between us even now.

This past Sunday although hymns as I recalled were not repeated the next Sunday, the hymn was sung again at the same place, after Communion. And though with less intensity feelings from deep within me caused the tears to flow once more. Perhaps it was that I left home in my twenties and no longer spent nights at my grandmother’s. I learned some years later she never forgave me as she spent nights alone in the farmhouse.

My tears were not only of sadness but of hope. We would meet again one day on the banks of that river healed and reunited with all those we love. The hymn was also the beginning of piecing a number of connections together and I will attempt to convey what I discovered in my next post.

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