Pa rum pum pum pum

Pa rum pum pum pum

Wurlitzer Bros. Organ - circa 1870
Wurlitzer Bros. Organ - circa 1870

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.

I knew she understood my feelings and accepted my love.

What just happened?

What just happened?

Friends and Hermanaas
Friends and Hermanaas

For the past 2 1/2 years, Don and I have been attending the Spanish Branch of the Church.  We have been welcomed with open arms and warm hearts, and we have really learned to love our Latino friends.  Many of these members have lived in the United States for a long time and speak English proficiently.  From time to time we realize that culturally we all hold on to “our” ways, but a blend of the two usually means success.

Last Sunday in Relief Society, the President, Guille Bugarin, announced the upcoming Enrichment activity on Thursday afternoon.  She showed a couple of projects that would be offered, and fielded questions about what each entailed, what we needed to bring, etc.  Because this discussion was in Spanish, I missed a lot, but I could clearly see that we could learn how to crochet edges on dishtowels or do something with a tote bag.  I couldn’t follow the discussion well enough to know if we were going to make a bag or decorate one, but since I didn’t want to do that, it didn’t matter.  I decided maybe I’d go for some instruction in crochet.

Thursday morning, 8 a.m. – telephone call for me:


Buenos días, mi amiga.  How are you?

I’m muy bien, gracias.

Sister, today at our Enrichment meeting I want to show the sisters how to make a cover for the pills.  I have most of the material that I need, but I wonder if you have some small pieces that I can use to finish.  I am making one for the boys and one for the girls.  Do you have any material in light blue or white?

I’m pretty sure I have some.  But what are you making?  a cover for the pills?

Yeah, you know – a thing to cover the pills.

The pills?

Yeah, you know – a thing to cover the pills.

At this point I was racking my brain trying to figure out what she was talking about.  I’m used to brief lapses in understanding during our conversations, but usually one or the other catches the drift and we continue!  However, this time  I could not begin to connect what I had seen regarding either the dishtowels or tote bags with “the pills.”

I don’t know what you mean.  But in a few minutes I’ll come up to your house and see what you’re doing to make sure I have what you need.

Oh, thank you so much.  You can come when you finish your breakfast.

When I got to her house she showed me some fabric that she wanted to make into pillowcases.

Oh, pillowcases!  You’re going to teach how to make pillowcases!

Yes.  I think the sisters need to learn how to sew and when they see a cute cover like this they will maybe want to make one.  And I don’t think it’s too hard.

Oh, no.  They aren’t hard to make.  That is a good project to start with.

And can you please bring your [sewing] machine?

So we discussed what she needed and I told her I would bring some fabric that would work for the wide hems on the cases.  We chatted for a while, she showed me a lot of family pictures, we talked about her kids, and about 45 minutes later I returned home.  I went to my fabric stash and found a couple of pieces of fabric that would work to complete the pillowcases.

The meeting was supposed to start at 3 p.m., and Don had assured Guille that he would be at the church to unlock the door.  I reminded Don that mis amigas have no concept of starting on time at a somewhat informal meeting as this one is, so I was not planning to go before 3:45.

When he called me from the church at about 3:35, Guille had just arrived and one other sister was there.  He said he’d be home to pick me up in about 15 minutes.  I had my sewing machine and fabric ready to go.

In that 15 minutes, my “American former Relief Society President” thinking kicked in, and I dashed downstairs to gather a few more things that I realized she might need for a sewing class.  If she needed my machine, perhaps a few other tools would be helpful as well.  Soon my pile at the door consisted of my cutting mat and rotary blade, several pairs of sewing scissors, iron, and a couple of pieces of coordinating fabric that I thought were big enough to make a pillowcase.  In addition I took some banana cake from the freezer and arranged it on a cute plate as my contribution to snacks.  When Don pulled in the driveway, we loaded the car and returned to the church.

The sisters had congregated in the multi-purpose room next to the kitchen and were chatting while setting out some food.  One sister was setting up her sewing machine, and we discussed where to plug mine in, as I wasn’t sure how she was going to do her instruction.  Then Guille turned to me:

So now you will teach us how to make pillowcases?

Wait, I thought you were teaching how to sew . . . I was going to learn to crochet . . . I’m not prepared to teach this class . . Fortunately – or due to divine intervention, because of my conversation with Guille earlier, I had done an internet search and emailed instructions for making a pillowcase to Maddie as a possible beginning sewing project. So without missing a beat I took charge, set up shop, pulled fabric out of my bag and taught the women how to make a pillowcase.    None had ever used a rotary cutter, and they were fascinated with the ease and accuracy of that little tool.  Marsha had never used a sewing machine, so she sat down at mine and cautiously sewed while her little boys stood at her elbows fascinated with her new skill.

“What would happen if I put my finger in there where that pointy thing (needle) is?”

“Mom, when you get really good will you make it go faster?”

“Tyler, you’re standing on the material so it won’t move!”

By the time the clock struck 6 and it was time to clean up,  we had completed 3 pillowcases and had a great meal of tostadas, beans, chicken, salsa, watermelon and cake.  It seems that at these functions, food just appears as if by magic – plentiful and delicious!  And we’d all had a good time.

Later that evening I realized that I had just taught an Enrichment sewing class with no advance notice, no preparation, no handouts, no centerpieces, no sign up sheets and no stress.

How refreshing!