I wanted to go to a sing-a-long of Handel’s Messiah because I sang it for four years in college when I was in choir, and I miss it. I wasn’t even going to blog about this event, but that was before I sat next to Gladys.
My mom and I were looking for the soprano section, as there were no signs and it wasn’t our church. I noticed that many of the people had on maroon collared shirts, so I figured they must be the church choir. We walked up to one of the rows and were pleasantly surprised that we had found the right place. Gladys graciously scootched herself over to make room for us.
She was an older black woman, slightly hunched over but with a gorgeous smile. I thanked her for letting us sit there and she replied, “Honey, I don’t own any of these pews so you can sit wherever you want to!” As the performance got started I could tell that her voice was probably past its prime, and she was having a bit of trouble reading the music. It made me wonder how long she’d been singing in that church choir.
During one of the solos, Gladys patted my hand and pointed to my wedding ring. “When?” she whispered, eyes twinkling. I cupped my hand around her ear and said, “A little over a year ago!” For a moment I felt like I was newly engaged all over again. Back when I couldn’t stop looking at my ring, when I knocked it against things and constantly snagged it because I wasn’t used to the weight. Now it’s just an extension of my hand. “Oh, you’re married already? Wow!” Gladys replied.
A while later, after we had just sat down from singing one of the choruses, Gladys looked at me and said, “You have such a pretty voice. It’s sweet.” I tried to clarify that my voice is soft, but she wasn’t having it. “It’s sweet. And you are so pretty.”
During the Hallelujah chorus, I noticed that she lost her place in the music and couldn’t find it. She was using a different score than the rest of us and couldn’t go by our page numbers. She searched and fumbled and finally just put her music down and sang. Something about that made me sad, that she tried so hard to find her place but couldn’t. It didn’t seem to bother her, though. Even when she began singing the wrong part, it didn’t matter. She was singing Hallelujah one way or another.
At the end of the night, after the long Amen, Gladys and I exchanged at least three hugs. I kind of didn’t want to leave, because I will never see this delightful woman again. I don’t know much about her, but tonight she made God proud. I’m sure of it.