Roots to Grow

I Believe in Music by George Spencer

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Years ago a country music composer named Mac Davis wrote a song called “I Believe in Music”. It was an okay song – not a great song – but an okay song. I even learned how to play it. If you listened to that particular song you might think that the words were a bit maudlin, but even if the words do not make a great composition, I would still say that I believe in music.

Of course I believe in a lot of other things. I believe in God. I believe in the love that I have for my wife and my son and my daughter-in-law and my granddaughters but I really do believe in music!

Music has been my comfort and joy to me since I was a teenager. I learned how to sing by listening to my mother. I refined that skill in my church choir. Later I sang in the high school chorus and the college chorus and my fraternity glee club. I listened to The Kingston Trio sing “Tom Dooly” and was encouraged to buy a Gibson guitar at the local music store. I learned how to make chords by looking at pictures in a “Mel Bay Learn to Play the Guitar” chord book. I memorized the protest songs of Bob Dylan . . . and in so doing became somewhat of a rebel myself. I played the chords and sang the songs and found a great deal of joy in the process.

Music has been a faithful companion. It has never left me lonely. When I was away from family and friends I still had a song to keep me company. When I was depressed I could still find a song to cheer me. When I wanted to celebrate I had a song of thanks. When I wanted to rekindle a cherished moment in time a song reminded me.

Most important, songs have given me expression. The tune and the words have spoken for me when I couldn’t express myself. So these are just some of the songs that I would use to express myself:

· “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” by Van Morrison – to my wife

· “Amazing Grace” by John Newton – a song that speaks to my faith

· “That’s My Daughter in the Water”, by Loudon Wainwright III – a song that reminds me of my granddaughters and my daughter-in-law – It makes me smile.

· “May You Stay Forever Young”, Bob Dylan – a wish that I give to my son, my granddaughters and my daughter-in-law

· “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack – another song to my granddaughters (Please find this song and play it to your granddaughters!)

· “Slip Sliding Away” – The third verse reminds me that there is so much I would like to say to my son . . . but I don’t know how. I cry when I sing it.

· “From a Distance” by Julie Gold – my “world view”

· “Take It Easy” by Jackson Browne and Glen Frye and Sweet Baby James, James Taylor – just because I like to sing them

· “Tom Dooly” by The Kingston Trio – the first song that I ever learned to play on my guitar

· “These Are The Days” another song by Van Morrison – a good philosophy for someone who is “getting older” – No one has ever heard me play this song because I feel that I can’t do it justice.

These Are The Days

Van Morrison

These are the days of endless summer

These are the days the time is now

There is no past, there’s only future

There’s only here, there’s only now

Oh your smiling face, your gracious presence

The fires of spring are kindling bright

Oh the radiant heart and the song of glory

Crying freedom in the night


These are the days by the sparkling river

His timely grace and our treasured find

This is the love of the one magician

Turned the water into the wine

These are the days of the endless dancing and the

Long walks on the summer nights

These are the days of the true romancing

When I’m holding you oh so tight


These are the days now we must savor

And we must enjoy as we can

These are the days that will last forever

You’ve got to hold them in your heart


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Immortal Life by Linda Spencer

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I believe in immortal life. I’m not talking about eternal life. We Christians believe that we will have eternal life with God. However, as I grow older I find that I am developing much broader ideas of immortal life in the here and now – ideas of how we are remembered. My daughter-in-law has suggested that everyone in the family create “This I Believe” essays for family posterity. Wonder if I’m the cow’s tail? It’s a daunting task – especially for someone who doesn’t regularly write much. In my head, I’ve composed a dozen essays, but putting even one on paper is totally different. Then I realized that these essays will be a fitting addition to our family’s immortality.

I can see immortality all around me. Recently I have attended the funerals of several friends who were all at least 80 years old. They had lived full, peaceful lives surrounded by friends, family and church. Every time I attended one of those funerals I heard examples of immortality when family members and friends retold stories about their loved ones. Every time I am with my granddaughters, I catch myself reinforcing my own immortality with stories of our family’s history – both ancient and recent. Every time I look at my family I see eternal life in the familial mannerisms and traits of my son, my granddaughters, my sisters and my nieces and nephews.

When I was born in 1947, my only living grandparent was my mother’s mother, Florence Melchor. Florence lived in Mooresville (curiously, Mooresville is only about 20 miles from Concord, where George grew up – but that’s another story!). Mooresville is about 15 miles from Florence’s own birthplace, Enochville, NC. However, both of these towns are about 100 miles from where my family lived at the time, Spartanburg, SC. In the 1940’s and ‘50’s, 100 miles was quite a distance to travel so we only saw Monga, as we called her, once or twice a year – at holidays. In spite of the time and difference that separated us I still remember her. I remember her auburn hair pulled into a bun – kind of fly-away around her face; her long dark skirts and “old lady” shoes; her hot kitchen with the wood stove in what I considered to be a huge house. I also remember seeing the casket with her body in it in the parlor of that house when she died. She died at the age of 67 in 1954, when I was 7. She had a stroke after washing windows.

But Florence (Monga) lives on. Monga and her husband, Harry, had seven children. The oldest was Virginia. Margaret, my mother, came next, only 11 months later! Then came Louise, Harry (who everybody called Buster), Dick and finally the twins, Dolly and Don. My grandfather, Harry, was a traveling hardware salesman whose mother lived within shouting distance of their house on Academy Street. (It is said that Harry’s mother accompanied Harry and Monga on their honeymoon.) Monga drove a car, which I think was pretty unusual for women to do in the early days of the 20th century. (Her daughter Virginia never learned to drive!) She was a charter member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Mooresville. I don’t know if Monga ever thought about her immortality but I can see it in all of her children. I can see it in me.

What does the average person think about immortality? Does the average person even think about it? I believe that eternal life, immortality, whatever you call it, is more than “life after death.” It’s more than my soul. It is more than what will happen after I die. I believe that immortality, or eternal life, is what I am – it’s my genes. And my genes are evidenced in my descendants.

I have one photograph of Monga. That photograph is clearer than any memories I have of her. I see lots things when I look at that picture – family, my mother, the Victorian times they were all a product of. But when I think of her, I am more aware of her and her immortality if I consider the 4 generations of family who have lived since her lifetime. When I look at that picture of Monga, I see my mother. I feel my mother’s and Monga’s eyes in me when I squint at something to see it more clearly. Sometimes I feel Monga in me in the way I walk or stand. How can there not be immortality when I look at my sisters and see our mother; when I watch my grandgirls’ mannerisms reflect their father’s – my son’s – mannerisms; when I see a small piece of family in one’s eyes or chin? How can immortality be separate from eternity when, across 5 generations I see family so clearly? How comforting it is to realize that, maybe 5 generations from now, my great-great-great granddaughters may look at a picture or video of me and see themselves, or their mother, tucked neatly into my eyes or nose or hair. I didn’t know my grandmother very well at all, but I can feel her in me, and I can see her in my grandgirls. And that is something I believe.

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