One of my fondest memories of my grandmother is swinging on her back porch, eating popsicles, singing hymns, and talking about life on summer afternoons.
We called her Susie and everybody loved her.
She was raised Southern Baptist and worshipped at a Methodist Church throughout her adult life, leading Bible Studies and volunteering all the time at our church. Susie never missed an opportunity to talk about Jesus; she loved Him so much. I think her constant prayer was for her children and grandchildren, that they would always love Jesus and stay close to Him.
Even when I became Catholic, though she didn’t understand all that was different, she was pleased I was in Church.
As an adult I’ve realized that one of the greatest gift she gave me was a love of hymns. Susie taught me that having a song in your heart and head meant always having a prayer on your lips. I remember floating on rafts in the Gulf singing “How Great Thou Art,” “To God Be the Glory,” “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!,” and other hymns while we enjoyed God’s creation. In those special moments together we would sing, and in between songs, in the quiet, we talked about life and about Jesus.
Because of Susie, in my earliest days I listened to hymns on tape, played them on the piano, and would sing them while swinging so high my toes could touch the leaves of the trees.
Sometimes my songs were extemporaneous, but when words failed I had a repertoire of music from which to choose.
Even now, when rocking with my babies in a dark room, the words that most quickly come to mind are songs of faith. If I am anxious in the night, my habit is to pray until I fall asleep. Sometimes that is a chaplet or a rosary, but many times I recite the poetry of hymns. When singing to my children I’ll sing many in a row, like a sweet litany of prayers, hoping my children will learn them as well. It struck me recently that hymns to me are like the Psalms for early Christians and my first introduction to repetitive Catholic prayers like the rosary.
Susie loved Jesus. She was so ready to see Him face to face. She lived her faith joyfully and was never ashamed to talk about Jesus and to let her love for him shine. Hymns were a part of her life until the very end.
One of her final requests before she died was that all of her grandchildren would sing “To God be the Glory” at her funeral. And we did. All fourteen grown up grandchildren sang for her and for Jesus. I am confident that she is singing with Jesus for eternity, and I am so thankful for the love of hymns she imparted to me.