A family in our church hosted a fish fry last night. When we drove through the countryside to their hilltop place, so tantalizing was the aroma that we probably could have found it blindfolded. After we were satiated with delicious food, the musicians pulled out their instruments, and we gathered our chairs around and sang until the stars came out.
A lot of the songs were old, familiar hymns: "I'll Fly Away", "Amazing Grace", "Farther Along", and one that always stirs my memory, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms".
When I was four, and my sister, Jan, was eleven, she gave me her favorite book, Small Rain, which I still treasure. Now long out of print, it has verses of Scripture, beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones. The last two pages illustrate a verse from Deuteronomy:
The Lord is thy keeper.
The eternal God is thy refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
I remember my Mother reading to me from that book at bedtime. In the daytime, her voice often filled our home with melody, and the song that came from that verse, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms", was often on her lips.
The night mom died, her family gathered around her bedside and sang hymns, much like we did last night. We held her thin hands and sang into the night, searching our memory for her favorites. With faltering breath, she lingered, and I wonder now if she was waiting for one more song, one last message of comfort that she could leave with us. There was one more, of course. It was the same song we sang last night, about the God whose Everlasting Arms shelter His children. When we sang it, my dear mother flew away to heaven.
When she left, the peace in the room was so pervasive it was almost tangible. Those Arms that held my mother, were also holding us.