An Election Day Meditation: Voting, Praying, Singing
It’s a grey day in the Shenandoah Valley.
The scene in front of me looks upside down.
The clouds are lower than the mountains.
The transition between sky and land, heaven and earth,
is not clear.
Threshold spaces are like this. Neither one nor the other.
Neither yet both.
Our country, too, stands at a threshold.
We are voting today.
It’s a day of anxiety, apprehension, and noise. Lots of noise.
After I voted, I turned off the TV and am not responding to social media notifications.
I am deliberately standing in the Threshold between fear and hope.
I admit to fear, knowing that regardless of the outcome of this election,
hate will not disappear.
We are being told today in high places that kindness is weakness.
That thresholds don’t exist. Only borders. Which require walls and soldiers and guns.
Fortunately, there is another way, the way of love.
Love exists in and beyond all our transitions, and it inspires us to keep going when we ourselves can’t see the destination.
When the clouds cover the mountains.
When the bad news drives out good.
And when life itself hangs on a tissue of breath, a last sound in the ear.
This last threshold,
the transition between life and death, may help all of us through the other thresholds we face.
On this cloudy, uncertain, election day,
I rise up to sing, grateful for all that I have learned as a member of the
What have we learned by singing at the ultimate threshold, the one between life and death?
There are few words to describe the experience, but when my Threshold friends try, they choose phrases like
“I felt a heart tug. . .”
“Music soothes the soul at very vulnerable times . . .”
“These are holy and sacred spaces that we dare to visit with the dying . . .”
“Gentle music is the best language we have to extend God’s love and care.”
“I feel like I have come full circle. . .”
In most of the music we sing together, we begin in unison, trying as much as possible to blend all our voices into one.
Then, we add a layer of harmony. Sometimes two layers.
In the first clip above, the magic happens at the 33 second mark.
We sing most songs in three parts, with our leader Donna occasionally reaching down to the low notes to give us a fourth.
That moment, when we are seated at bedside, and the person is dying, will sometimes solicit an eye-flutter.
Or a tear. Or a smile. Some mouth words and some sing with us.
Sometimes the dying one gives no indication that they can hear.
When asked, we come.
We open our mouths and make a cradle with our voices.
Then we rock.
As I wrote the words above, the clouds lifted. They are almost in their usual place above the mountain.
Across America, people are picking up ballots, marking them, passing by the competing red and blue signs.
Little acts of kindness are taking place — neighbors who disagree, nod and smile at each other.
Something invisible lies hidden but present.
I hear angels singing.
You can hear them too, below.
Thank you for a moment of inspiration in these gray days.
Thanks for stopping by, Jeanette. The sun has peeked out here. Hope you are seeing some also.
Sister, Blush is waiting by my couch to be read. I am working on my memoir. I am asking the Lord to send some believers to walk by my side as I write this book. My life has been so sad and yet joyous. My first husband threw me away after 28 years of marriage. After I had married my second husband, I had a great blessing. I traveled with first son to South Korea where his father lay dying in a hospital bed. My second husband understood and was supportive. The son that I traveled with, Dr. Frank, to South Korea, died 26 months later at age 46 of exactly the same thing as his father. Both died of a massive heart attack and catastrophic stroke. I had the sorrowful joy of releasing my son from his earthly body. Praise God in all things. Much more to my story. Among many God ordained experience, I have made many trips to heaven!! Please pray for me when the Lord speaks of me to your heart.
Off to vote in an hour and get our dog’s nails clipped.
Blessing, Karen in the woods of Alaska near Fairbanks
Shirley — Thank you.
You are so welcome, Laurie.
Joining you in singing. Thank you.
“America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law”
Now there’s a verse we all should be singing, Dolores. Thanks for reminding us here of the nature of true patriotism. I don’t think I have ever loved my country more than now. America the Beautiful. Sing it!
Two very good articles/radio programs about our choir: http://www.wmra.org/post/singers-threshold-dying#stream/0
Thank you Shirley for this post and the pause of music and praying that comes with it. There is a threshold ahead. And, as is true with all threshold moments, we do not know at this moment what is on the other side for our country.
The song, “I’m going to raise my mother up,” brought tear at the memory of mom’s death in 2015. We (all the siblings that could be there) did sit with her talked, told stories, laughed and held our breath as she took her last breath. She would have loved that song.
I am remembering our opportunity to chant evening time prayers with the Benedictines in the church in Minnesota. Yes, the chanting resonates within our bodies and hearts.
What beautiful word pictures about thresholds and actual photos! Thank you for these words of hope. The song, “Take my Hand, Precious Lord” moved me to tears. God’s hand is always waiting. Love the whole concept Threshold Choir too.
Thank you, Betty. This hymn was said to be Martin Luther King, Jr’s favorite. It was sung at his funeral. It moves me to tears also and gives me courage.
Perfect. Thank you Shirley
Thank you, Janet. Courage!
We here in Canada are thinking of you today and praying for you and for your nation, Shirley. God is still in control, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Those clouds will lift and you will see the mountains again.
What a beautiful thought, Elfrieda. You move me. Thank you.
Thank you for this melodic respite at the end of a trying day; I heard it twice. Through the treble harmony I could hear my Daddy sing, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” God is good! 🙂
Thank you, Marian. I never get tired of these songs. I hope you watched the four-minute video at the end also (especially the song “I’m Gonna Lift My Mother Up”). Your Daddy was a singer. Mine was tone deaf — except at the very end of his life. He crossed over the threshold after singing “Jesus Loves Me” without a discordant note.
Thank you for blessing us with this post, Shirley. I needed it.
So glad it reached you, Tina. Blessings.
So glad I checked my email. I really needed this. I enjoyed the singing and the beautiful pictures but your words touched me the most. Thank you so much for posting this.
I’m glad those words found a home in you, Rhonda. Blessings.
Thank you for your gifts of singing. Thank you Threshold Choir.
June, I join you in thanking Threshold Choir. The vision for this amazing international movement belongs to Kate Munger. https://thresholdchoir.org/solutions/how-we-started
Beautiful — words, photos, song.
I want to include the fundraising letter from Katherine Rose Tirner that came today. It describes so much of what I and other singers feel:
We bedside singers are an intimate group of humans, living on a continuum of singers back to
the ancient world and beyond. Within our service we cultivate an inner landscape of peace,
compassion and presence. Because of what Threshold Choir gives to me, I am passionate about
giving back. Each rehearsal gives me a confidence and a community. Each patient opens my
heart to the suffering of others. Each Sing renews my sense of purpose and meaning. Each song
is a living gift, always accessible. I am blessed with an abiding trust that I belong to something