Walking With Jackie the Ripper

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Jackie stares at me in amazement and not a little fright when I burst into song on our walks, but I do so anyway. I like to sing, and though I have never been approached about doing a solo at church, I sing out. Everyone knows I am there.

It runs in my family to enjoy singing, and it runs in my family to be pretty bad at it. As a matter of fact, one of my sisters is completely tone deaf and has no notion whatsoever of how bad she sounds when she lifts her voice in worship of the Lord. The preacher tells me by the time her praise reaches Heaven it sounds a lot better than mine does, but if I'm any judge it needs a lot of filtering before it gets there.

To my way of thinking some of the most beautiful and inspirational songs ever to have originated in our country came out of the miserable time of slavery. Afro-American spirituals such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" are some which we still sing.

It is my understanding that this music resulted from the awful burdens the field workers endured in their daily lives. Perhaps it was their way of communicating with each other and a constant link with God. Indeed, it would lighten the heart to know that Jesus is sending a chariot just to "carry me home."

The use of spirit-lifting songs must be fairly universal, for Mama told of times in her young years when she and her siblings sang to lighten the load of field work, and she shared some of the songs with us. Most of them were of the folk music type and sad enough to break our tender hearts.

By Mama's childhood the great ship Titanic had gone down and was memorialized in a lot of melodies, most of them pretty awful, but the kids in her family loved every measure of the sad dirges.

"The more mournful the better it made us feel when we were working so hard," she told us. "At least we weren't drowned and lying down on the bottom of the ocean like those poor folks on the Titanic."

The final verse of "The Sinking of The Titanic" must have become indelibly engraved on my mind, for a few years back I visited a display of the artifacts which have recently been retrieved from the vessel and I could almost hear her singing.

"A little girl was wondering if her mama had gone to stay. There'll surely be something invented to raise the Titanic someday." Maybe you think that experience didn't feel strange. They have not yet raised the Titanic but they have retrieved an amazing amount of memorabilia. I wish Mama could have lived to see it.