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.