(Reprinted from 2014)
When I was a kid, I spent many hours in the hay loft in our old barn that doubled as my playhouse.
It was my tall ship if I wanted to play pirates.
My battlement if I was a Rebel soldier fighting off the Yankee hordes.
My fort on the western frontier if I was playing cowboys and Indians before we had to call Indians Native Americans.
The loft had openings on both ends, the east looking toward the pecan orchard and the west overlooking the hedgerow that I knew to be full of quail and rabbits.
There were great views from the loft of the old barn.
But that’s a story for another time.
Today I’m talking about a different loft.
Therefore, a different view.
The choir loft.
A few years ago, when I moved back to the Blessed South and to my old homeplace smack in the middle of the Bible Belt, I rejoined the choir that I hadn’t sung a note in for decades. Several of the members were the very same ones who were there back then and have been lifting their voices up to Him all that time.
It’s a joy.
I have loved every service that I’ve been blessed to be a part of.
And, there’s the view.
Now you might think that singing in the choir would mean seeing the same thing every week, sitting in the same spot with your back to the rear wall facing the congregation, week in and week out, and, to some extent you’d be right.
I see the balcony that was once the Sunday School wing back when the entire church building was under one roof. No add-ons. No annexes. No gyms.
I also see the framed document on the back wall, the one that tells good Baptists what debaucheries to avoid in order the remain good Baptists.
And, from my perch on the far left end of the back row, I can watch the front door and see who comes in late and who leaves early.
But there’s another kind of view.
When you attend the same church where your Mama took you for the first time when you were two weeks old, that’s my history, many of the faces out in the congregation are mostly familiar, mostly friendly and nearly all memory provoking.
Like the cousin who recently came back for a visit. She was a senior in high school when I was a sophomore but we were good buddies and she even claimed me as her own on a long-ago Sadie Hawkins Day. She moved away and met with a lot of success but back in the day she was just one of the boys. You read that right. She could, and would, try pretty much anything that the boy cousins would.
There’s also that sweet face of Miss Joanne who recently lost her husband. They were some of our closest neighbors and she helped raise me. I crashed my bicycle on the road in front of her house and tore a chunk out of me knee. She got to me before Mama did and made it all better.
There are two faces that look nearly identical. Understandable since they are identical twins. Their daddy and mine occasionally farmed together and I remember them as teenage farmboys working in the peanut fields. These days, between the two of them, on some Sundays their families, children, grands and great-grands, fill a couple of pews.
On some Lord’s Day mornings, if I really look hard, I can also see many faces that are no longer there among the worshipers but who I am confident are all currently worshiping on a higher plain.
Mama and Daddy of course. They used to sit on the east side, near the front, second or third row. I was always amazed and how often both of them sang the hymns, word for word, holding but not really using the hymnal.
Grandma is there too, always wearing a Sunday-goto meeting dress and always somewhere near the front.
I see Mr. Thomas who could and would extend the service by ten or fifteen minutes with his epic closing prayers but who meant and lived by the words he said.
On the very front row I see Brother Fred and Brother Bob and Brother Gerald and several other pastors waiting till it was time to step into the pulpit and get to preaching.
All in Heaven.
All absent from the body but present with the Lord.
But the faces remain.
I can see them.
From the loft.
Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of several books of Southern Humor. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at [email protected].