Sunday, October 26, 2003

"Come Sunday."

(It's playing on my favorite jazz station as I write...)

That brilliant and very moving composition of Duke Ellington's nudged one of those anomaly's that's has haunted my life; and one that should be shared.

A year or so ago (maybe two?) I was invited to speak on a Sunday morning at a church just outside of Santa Rosa, in a very rural area in a redwood forest (enchanting place!). My friend, Jewel, is a very active member of her congregation, had issued the invitation. Years before we'd moved out of the Diablo Valley, our families had been early members of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian-Universalist church in Walnut Creek. I'd moved back into Berkeley in the Seventies and Jewel and her family moved north where they built their beautiful country home in the forest. We've remained in contact, but only rarely these days do we have physical contact.

Tennyrate, she'd given me no particular topic to speak on, but trusted that I would have something to say of interest. For me, it was a chance to get away for an overnight with my friends, and the rest was just the cost of that opportunity. I'd think of something.

I'd decided to talk about aging, I believe, but -- except for a few minutes after dinner, spent little time thinking about my talk. Had decided to just talk about "life" and the aging process, I think, but it was of so little importance that I can't recall for the life of me just what I shared that day; except for this:

Jewel let me look through her music collection the night before, to choose whatever might be appropriate for my "service." It was easy. Among the tapes and cd's there was a copy of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday." It was one of my very favorite pieces of all time, and would set the mood for me as nothing else could.

Next morning we got out of bed, dressed for church, climbed into the cars (as I recall, Don drove separately). Arrived at church to find people already filing in. Met members of the board, Jewel and Don's friends, hugged and kissed her daughters. Took a few minutes to step away from the people -- to breathe in some calm before we gathered in the sanctuary. It was then that I noticed that we'd left home without the music. "Come Sunday" was missing. The drive was too far and we were just ten minutes away from the beginning of the service. I signaled to Jewel -- told her that we'd have to improvise something, or ... .

Nothing. I'd have to go it without. Felt a little naked, but would do my best anyway.

I held an Order of Service in my hand. Those moments of panic were just beginning to shorten my breathing, but they always provided the edge that I needed in order to get into the "performance" space. There was a rustling sound and that of chairs sliding as about a dozen people were suddenly moving to the front of the sanctuary (obviously not on my program). They took their places in what was obviously "choir" formation. Nothing in my program accounted for their presence. (Good. I'd try to find clues in their hymn to use as a lead-in.)

The choir director raised his arms; the choir burst into the first chords of

"Come Sunday!"

It was the last thing I might have expected. After all, this was a White congregation with an all-white choir (naturally), the last place I'd have expected to hear this composition. It was another of those serendipitous moments that occurs without warning -- throughout my long life. Their choice of song was in no way related to me or to my subject since not even I had any idea what the content of my talk would be.

It went well. I felt grounded.

They couldn't have known, yet ... .