When the singing stopped
A man was brought to the clinic and stayed the night. I know he is an older man because many of the children from my English class tell me their grandfather is there. They say he has a fever. They hang around my room and draw pictures for my art wall. At dusk the family gathers in greater and greater numbers and begins to sing. Mothers, wife, sons, daughters, children, cousins and friends; they all sing. There are solos and times when they sing in unison. I go to sleep to this song. It is so tender, so sweet, so heartbreakingly sung for a beloved grandfather. The music softens and someone prays. I go to sleep to this; the singing and the prayers.
The next day three more people are admitted with the same fever. The nurse tells me its typhoid fever. We also have a woman in labor. Once again they begin to sing. The laboring woman is draped in her sister’s arms and all around us is the singing. They begin to pray with a deep devotion that almost sounds like speaking in tongues. There is singing and then prayer. It is becoming more and more powerful; the contrast of sweet, tender melodies and rhythmic prayer. The woman’s contractions and the songs and prayers; the being born and dying working in unison.
Then a person of authority comes down the hall, enters the room and after a few stern words, the singing stops and does not return. The silence is a heavy thing all around me the rest of the afternoon and into the night.
As I write this, they have started singing and praying again. Perhaps it is a new shift of relatives or perhaps they answer to a higher authority. It is dark and the singing is as sweet and tender as always and the prayers most deeply prayed. Sometimes the singers are background music to the prayer. The music is like the wind and rain and sea and sun. In it, there is no suffering or hardship. There is only beauty and a love for God that is tender and all encompassing. It does not blame God for all they haven’t had or even beg for more. The song seems to rise above the earth and bless us all for that is good and beautiful.