Singing for Edna Johnson

We had a rare privilege as a group the other week. We got to sing at the bedside of a dear, dying, church member. Edna had grown up in our little church, was now in her late 80s, and had been declining slowly for about 6 years. Her family was gathered around her, expecting the end in a day, a week, maybe two at the most.

In moving to Minnesota years ago, my wife and I each had left our parents and hometowns back in Illinois. When we first attended Bryn Mawr Presbyterian, Edna was so welcoming, open, and loving, that we soon felt like we had not only gained a church family, but had gained a sort of local substitute mother for ourselves and grandmother for our kids.

Twenty five-plus years later, Edna was sick, and it was clear it was time to say goodbye one last time. The CL7 visited the nursing home, and stood around the bed. Edna’s eyes were closed, and she didn’t respond to our speaking. So we sang – a Gaither tune named When You Pray, and two old hymns, In The Garden, and Oh, How I Love Jesus. As we got about to the middle of the third song, though her eyes remained closed, a smile crossed her lips.

A nurse came in to administer some medicine, and we slipped out and sang for some of the other residents; an impromptu concert in the dining area. After maybe 10 minutes, the nurse came in and said that Edna was awake! So we ran back to her room and reprised the hymns for her.

She passed away within the week. I’ll never forget the gift of that day, getting to sing for someone I loved as they were so close to crossing that Jordan River. I envision Edna right now, singing hymns, waiting for the rest of us to get up there and harmonize.

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