Monday, November 12, 2007
This year, fortunate for me, Veteran's Day, once called Armistice Day, fell on a Sunday. This meant a rare but notable occasion to sing patriotic hymns during a month that is not July. I quite like the verve of these hymns, so when I recognized our collective good luck, I was visibly excited.
Topping off the list was the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! My favorite. And, this time, there was an extra glimmer of anticipation. You see, we currently attend church with a congregation that is most colorful. Boasting a wide range of refugees, a group that comes in a van provided for those who need assistance, and young couples straight-outta-b-y-u, we are truly a motley bunch. When you're a member of a large social group, especially one of this caliber, you're gonna have a couple favorites, and I found my Number One on the Sunday preceding the fourth of July. Leopard-print clad, with glittering sequined high-heels and a broad headband worn Rambo-style over a hairstyle that can probably be best described as a Flat Top, I knew she was right for me at once. Pure Pulchritude. The line-up of hymns that Sunday included all the biggies: My Country Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful, and, of course, my precious Battle Hymn.
During the first two songs it was impossible not to notice that one voice stood out about the rest in our congregational canticle. Loud and strong and pleasingly off-pitch, it was so significantly greater in volume than the sum of the other hundred-plus voices that folks were craning their necks to find its source. I myself craned, I'll admit. Really, it was such a scene that to scan the crowd was perfectly appropriate. Not surprisingly, the songbird was my own true Flat Top.
Finally, the closing hymn: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored...". It was positively deafening. I am of no timid voice, and, upon all I hold dear, I promise you I could not hear myself one little bit. I couldn't hear anyone else either, for that matter. Flat Top's truth was marching on. When we reached the refrain of the final verse she treated us with an impromptu descant. I cannot emphasize enough the emotional impact of her choice. I thought I would laugh, or cry, or die, maybe all three, but, oh my heaven, that clarion call was not one I'd soon forget. Glory Hallelujah. Yes Ma'am.
When I saw the Battle Hymn on yesterday's line-up I knew the question on my mind was the same as on everybody else's: Would it be the same? Would she sing with full intent to deafen? Would Flat Top sing her descant?
She sure did, with all the fervor of the patriotic season. This time I didn't hold back. I laughed. I cried. It was transcendent. I hope that all veteran's present, in this life or beyond, felt duly thanked and, more importantly, celebrated.