Reflections on “Come Come Ye Saints”
This hymn has been on my mind a lot lately. Somewhat intentionally to be sure. It’s a hymn that’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and was one of my father’s favorite hymns. I’m at a point in my life where it’s become even more meaningful; especially the last verse. “And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell–
All is well! All is well!” (Hymns 1985 #30)
As I wrote in post yesterday a couple of event have brought this last verse to mind very vividly.
As I’m writing this an old friend of mine from Southern Oregon is nearing the end of his life possibly in the next couple of days. He’s been ill for many years and at least for the 15 years that I knew him struggling with many health problems. Just recently he was hospitalized for some ailment and received the news he has metastatic cancer. It came as a shock to him, but realizes that with his other health problems as well that the end is near and has elected to have comfort care (hospital equivalent of hospice). I probably won’t see him again in mortality. Both my mother and I cried when we found out about his prognosis. The Spirit whispered to me that the best thing I could do was pray for him and add his name to the prayer roll. So having done that, and sent him some music and a written message it’s all I can do and trust him to the care of Heavenly Father. “And should we die before our journey’s through…”
Conversely, another good friend of mine whose family you all have been praying for had his life miraculously preserved. They’ve been friends of ours for more than 40 years. Good friends doesn’t really convey it accurately. The way I feel about them and they feel about my family it wouldn’t surprise me to know we’ve been friends for thousands of years before coming to earth. He and his family live in a beautiful and heavily wooded area on the Klamath River in Northern California. Ahead of the wildfire he was trying to help his neighbors by clearing brush from away from their homes on a Caterpillar. The firestorm went right over the top of him and he had to abandon the caterpillar. As he was running he was getting hit with falling embers and scrambling to find any dark place he could where there was no fire and was going to lie down. but he kept moving noticing that his ankle was hurting a lot. He made it back to his place to discover that his ankle was broken. And though he was running from the flames with embers and debris falling on him, he wasn’t burned at all! No burn marks on his clothing or anywhere on his exposed skin. It truly was a miracle that he is still alive. He has to stay off his ankle for at least a month, but the outcome could have been far different. “But if our lives our spared again, to see the saints their rest obtain…”
In my own life it’s the second verse that’s become especially relevant;
“Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell–
All is well! All is well!”
I’ve had some major health struggles recently that resulted in my no longer working as a Minister of Music for a Lutheran church. In August and September I was hospitalized with an in intestinal infection called Diverticulitis with a complication of sepsis. I was off for two months. In December I ended up getting sick again although not as bad. In December neurological symptoms started coming to the surface. With some reluctance my primary care doctor sent me a neurologist at the end of March of this year. Within five minutes the neurologist had figured out I had Parkinson’s disease. Young onset Parkinson’s Disease to be specific. Similar to what actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with. Nobody previously had been looking for Parkinson’s disease which evidently can start in the digestive tract. With all the symptoms I’ve been experiencing it’s likely I’ve had it for at least three or four years. In a way it was a relief to hear the diagnosis. On the other hand, the realization that this was going to be something that I’ll be dealing with for the rest of my life was very sobering. The most obvious symptom of Parkinson’s disease is a tremor. I’ve got a little bit of a tremor in my left hand that I’ve had for several years. I’ve also developed involuntary jaw movement in which my teeth chatter constantly as though I were shivering. But there are a lot of other aspects to the disease and they have an affect on pretty much all areas of life.
It’s been an emotional roller coaster for years and a life changing experience. When some new aspect of frustration comes up it can been pretty discouraging. But back to “Come Come Ye Saints.” I have that hymn set as one of my medication reminders. Sometimes it’s a little awkward to have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir come bursting forth from my pockets. But as I’ve come to realize even more so, the line “Our God will never us forsake” is one that has come to mean a great deal to me. It’s not just William Clayton’s prose, it’s a promise of a truth I’ve always known but sometimes in the throes of battle hard to remember. But he is always there. He’s guided me through the maze that is same sex attraction and he’s guiding me through this new challenge as well.
Some days it really gets to me. My energy level isn’t what it used to be, and some days I have problems with balance etc. Sometimes I fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Probably a medication side effect as been But the truth is still that God will not abandon me and his patience and faithfulness to me is as sure as the promise of a new day. And as hard as it is sometimes to feel it, I too can sing with the pioneers of every age
“We’ll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King,
Above the rest, these words we’ll tell:
All is Well! All is Well“*
*The link below is an organ setting of Come Come Ye Saints that I wrote several years ago.