Guest post by Rebecca Weber:
I am carrying a basket of clean clothes, nearing the senior residents’ entertainment room, when I hear it. Familiar music prances to my ears. I set down the laundry basket, lean against a nearby door-frame, and listen.
These words by Stuart Hamblen are riding along on the notes:
“….Ain’t got time to fix the floor./ Ain’t got time to oil the hinges, nor to mend the windowpane./ Ain’t gonna need this house no longer, I’m getting ready to meet the saints.”
The words lift my emotions onto their musical steeds, and I am borne away. Away—to a warm May evening months ago:
My siblings and I sit on the front porch with Galen and Patricia Horst’s children, our second cousins. The porch light illuminates the evening darkness. Some of the boys and I perch on the railing, a few people stand, and several sit on chairs. Three girls play guitar; we all cluster around a songbook stand that holds a folder of songs.
We make a joyful noise unto the Lord. The night rings with music. We join voices and hearts in songs of prayer and hymns of praise.
Our dads step out onto the porch. Galen says, “Have you sung The Old House yet?” We have not, but now we flip the pages and sing it spirited, the guitars accompanying. “Ain’t gonna need this house no longer,/ Ain’t gonna need this house no more./ Ain’t got time to fix the shingles/….”
Amanda, in the middle of the cluster, plays guitar and sings with the rest of us. What a privilege to have her and the family here despite her RCM diagnosis! But our minds are not on heart problems now. We are singing—about a worn-out dwelling whose inhabitant is preparing to meet the saints. We are rejoicing—in the togetherness and the thought of heaven.
The next day, my family and the Horst family go sight-seeing. On the way, we older ones (who are driving together) decide to sing. The guitars have been reposing in a pile of coats on the back seat, and we bring them forth.
The corners of the van fill with the music as Amanda and Vanessa strum the instruments and the rest of us join in the songs. We drive along the coastline, weaving through fishing villages now, nearing the famous Peggy’s Cove. Again we sing The Old House with vigor: “This old house is getting shaky, this old house is getting old./ This old house lets in the rain and this old house lets in the cold./ On my knees I’m getting chilly, but I feel no fear or pain./ Cause I see an angel peeking through a broken window pane.”
Amanda, in the front passenger’s seat, twists around to face Vanessa in the next seat. The speed of the song’s chorus becomes a competition between them. Faster and faster fly their fingers over the strings, and the voices dance along. The climax comes: “….I’m gettin’ ready to meet the saints.”
Amanda’s eyes cup a strange light; they must be seraph’s eyes. Her face is flushed but beaming.
When we get to Peggy’s Cove, Brandon brings Amanda her scooter. Riding it, she blends into the happy crowd of eager children and watchful adults. She is one of us, young and spirited despite limitations.
A walkway leads to the lighthouse. We explore and take pictures. Then someone suggests traipsing along the shore, over the enormous rocks, to our favorite place for watching the waves. The main troop takes off, but I go back the pathway with Amanda. I hope to find a trail to the wave-watching place so she can go there too. She admits to being cold. “The medication I take makes me get cold more easily.” This statement of fact is the closest she gets to complaining in my presence.
“I’ll find you a scarf in the van,” I say.
Too soon the next day, the Horst’s time with my family is over. They repack their RV. We exchange goodbye hugs.
Amanda is the last to get into the RV. I have begun to walk slowly away, but look back in time to see her hesitate outside the door. Her sparkling smile embraces me, and her eyes—full again of that heaven-light—lift for a moment with the wave of her slender hand. I wave back. Then she climbs aboard, still smiling.
It is farewell; I feel it deep in my soul.
Less than a month later, the message comes: Amanda will not be needing her worn-out dwelling place anymore. She has a new heart. She is in the presence of the Savior.
She has gone Home and is singing with the saints.
This is why, months later when I hear The Old House, I lean against the door-frame—head bowed, silence in my heart, and tears in my eyes.
Rebecca Weber, South Maitland NS
PS, by Galen Horst: Below is a video I put together of Amanda and her sisters singing This Old House. The videos were taken in April 2019. It was a few days after we got the second guitar and the girls were having fun playing together while watching a bonfire. It was a special evening of enjoying the outdoors on the farm, knowing we would be moving away soon. Rebecca’s story inspired me to create this video.