I’m hearing the word “witness” in many places these days. Sometimes people use it when describing a horror they have witnessed. Other times, it’s the wonder one feels at being able to see something unexpected or extraordinary. It’s the latter experience I will try to share.
I play the organ for my church congregation. The way the chapel is set up, I sit behind the podium where the speakers stand. It was from this vantage point that I was a witness to a tender moment I won’t soon forget.
Mary (name changed) is a tall, slender, 17-year old with cranberry red hair who sings like an angel. She is the middle child in a family with five children. Nathan (name changed), her younger brother, is also a tall, slender 14 or 15-year old. Due to the pandemic, I hadn’t heard them sing in nearly two years. In fact, the last time I heard Nathan sing, he was still a soprano. I was pleasantly surprised now to hear his rich baritone voice.
Sunday, they stood at the podium ready to sing a duet. As they listened to their mother play the introduction, Mary reached for Nathan’s hand. At first, he squirmed his hand away, but when she reached again, he held her hand. The podium hid their hands so the congregation did not see what I saw. Mary and Nathan didn’t let go through all four verses of the song.
As the song progressed, Mary became emotional and was having difficulty singing without crying. She squeezed his hand. With a quick glance, Nathan continued and sang Mary’s solo part giving her time to regain her composure. I learned later that Mary’s grandmother who was in attendance would be starting chemotherapy the next day. Her cancer had returned with a vengeance and her prognosis doesn’t look good. No wonder it was hard for Mary to sing.
This expression of family love touched me deeply. I am grateful to have been a witness.