The old organ looked almost neglected sitting in the back of the “chapel” of the funeral home. The finish was well worn and peeling in a few places, but that look was somewhat softened by the lace runner carefully placed on the top. The keys were smudged with accumulated dust, and based on the position of a couple of them, I knew some would stick when played. An old hymnal sat in place, open to a hymn about finding comfort in Jesus. I wondered if the hymnal was a prop, or if the instrument really had been played recently. Initially, I didn’t realize it was a pump organ, but when I sat down and looked for the power switch, I realized that the only power would be that which came from my feet pumping the large pedals below. The labels on the few stops gave me little clue as to how it would sound, but I quickly picked one labeled melodia and another that sounded close to that, and I began to play.
The initial notes were raspy and a little unpredictable, hanging uncertainly in the air as I tried to figure out the best technique for coaxing comforting music out of the old instrument. But the music grew in strength as I continued to play, gaining volume and confidence as I got into a rhythm coordinating my pumping feet with my hands. It certainly wasn’t a concert worthy of Carnegie Hall, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances!
In the front of the room, the widow was almost motionless on a chair just a few feet from the body of her beloved companion. Her shiny dark hair was a contrast against the white jacket she had on against the January cold. Surrounded by several family members, she sat quietly gazing at his face perhaps trying to memorize his features. I wondered about her thoughts, knowing that this would be the last time she would see or touch his body in this life. I tried, unsuccessfully, to put myself in her position. How do you feel when your husband dies before you are even 50 years old? Where do you find the strength to go on knowing that you now face the future without him? How do you make peace with your loss when it still doesn’t even seem real. He seemed so well just a few days ago . . .
My mind was spinning with these thoughts as I played the familiar strains of “Oh, My Father,” “I Stand all Amazed,” and “Each Life that Touches Ours for Good.” I continued to play other quiet hymns as I wondered what I could do for her. How could I serve her? How could I offer my comfort and deepest sympathy? Her English skills were even less than my Spanish, so our communication was limited at best, but I desperately wanted her to know my feelings.
After playing through a number of hymns, I returned to “Oh, My Father.” This time, after a few notes, I heard a male voice join the organ notes, singing the words in quiet Spanish. As the young man continued singing, another hushed voice or two joined, and they sang through the verses. I could hardly hear the voices, but I sensed a spirit of comfort fill the room as the woman continued to sit quietly, her eyes never leaving her husband.
Eventually our time was up and she said her last good bye. She turned and walked towards the door where I met her, and we clung to each other in an emotional hug. I whispered, “lo siento,” but words weren’t necessary.
Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
Me and my drum.
I knew she understood my feelings and accepted my love.