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A Wonder-Filled Disruption

Jennifer Hill, of Fuller Northwest, saw the power of music transform a dreaded church service into an experience she didn’t want to end.

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Photo by Matt Lumpkin (MDiv ’11)

I was cold and didn’t want to be there. The Christmas Eve service at church had never been part of our tradition until we moved away from extended family. The service to me seemed like such a disruption to the warmth and comfort of being at home with those you love on a cold winter’s night. But I begrudgingly went.

My Grandma Cutler was living in a nursing home by us at the time. She had Parkinson’s disease . . . I had watched this cruel disease slowly rob her of her ability to speak, and to walk without trouble, but despite it, she was there with us. We all sat together in the creaky, cold wooden pew in the back of the sanctuary, and arose as the lights were being turned off; the candles were passed and lit so that we could begin singing the carols. I was glad because it meant the service was almost over.

As we stood there holding our candles and getting ready to sing, I noticed how steady my grandmother was standing next to me. I held the candle for both of us, and as the organist played Joy to the World, I heard her. She was singing. My grandmother had a beautiful voice, but I hadn’t heard her say my name much less sing in a very, very long time. I stood there bathed in the soft glow of the candlelight with tears streaming down my face, much like they are as I write this. She sang with such strength and joy, and I just wept as I was overcome by this gift that I didn’t know was coming. In but a moment, this time that I thought was such a horrible inconvenience became something I never wanted to end.

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