Are there such things as angel wannabes? Do angels have tryouts? Is there an angel choir camp they go to?
My imagination tells me there is. I see a placid lake with a soft grassy shore that pauses at the feet of a huge stone amphitheater. The acoustics are the finest, literally, in heaven and on earth. Angels unplugged.
The sopranos have cabins along the creek; the altos along a sandy beach; the tenors in Hobbit-like holes; the basses, well, they live in the deep woods.
The highlight of the camp is once a week when the angel-wannabes are dispatched to earth to listen to the finest singers on earth.
Pavrotti. Groban. Celine. Elvis. Cash. Sinatra. Satchmo. Whitney. Bono. Elmer Fudd (Kill the Wabbit one of my all-time favorites). The Sommers Sisters.
They best singers were saved for last. They never made it to the big time, they never played Vegas, they were never on the Ed Sullivan show or David Letterman, but when it came to the sweet sound of two sisters singing with a harmony born in a drafty old farm house, there were none better than the Sommers Sisters; Wilma and Dorothy. They started out as Mead Sisters then married brothers, John and Si Sommers.
I remember the last time they sang together in the cozy brick church with the massive stained glass windows at the corner of Sturges and Violet in our tiny Kansas town. They had warned us for a while that they were going to retire from singing, but we didn’t believe them nor did we want to. Dorothy was the soprano and had a cancerous part of her tongue removed years earlier but her diction- along with her disposition- was perfect. She was always happy. Always.
Wilma was the alto with a little bit of natural vibrato in her voice even when she laughed. One of Wilma’s favorite activities- besides singing- was to throw her fishing poles in the back of a orange-red ’69 Chevy pickup and head to one of the farm ponds on their farm. She was well in her ‘80’s before she quit fishing.
Each Wednesday in the basement of the church, Wilma and Dorothy anchored the Quilters. Eight to ten ladies sat in metal fold-up chairs around the latest quilt stretched out over 1×4’s perched precariously on narrow, shaky saw-horses. Each time I stopped to visit them, they offered to teach me to quilt and to catch up on the latest happenings in around town.
Like most churches in rural areas, breaking bread together in potlucks was the galvanizing center of church fellowship. Wilma discovered early on that I had a weakness for her peach cobbler so she’d sneak a piece and hide it in the kitchen before she put it out on the trough for those less appreciative to devour.
Wilma and Dorothy were always quite supportive of the youth. Wilma even offered herself up for a youth group skit where, at the very end, two boys kissed her on the cheek. She laughed with that alto vibrato chuckle and asked if they could do the skit all over again.
If I had to limit myself to two words to describe Wilma and Dorothy it would be: rock solid. If memory serves me correctly, they both started in that church as children and were there every Sunday morning of their entire lives. I recall one nasty winter’s day with a foot of snow on the ground after Wilma’s husband passed away that I saw her coming up the steep steps to the church. When I asked her what on earth she was doing out on such a miserable day she told me the fishing wasn’t any good so she might as well come to church.
Perhaps it is that as I age, I grow more deeply appreciative of people that have lived to be 80 and 90 and have kept a great attitude. Life throws us enough heartaches, disappointments, and setbacks that bitterness, like bindweed, can slowly creep in and steal our joy. Not the Sommers Sisters.
I also find that as I confront the challenges of life, I draw strength and inspiration from people who have woven into the fabric of my heart like Wilma and Dorothy. I’m not much into marshmallow heroes and cotton candy action figures. I like heroes like Wilma and Dorothy who would give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I sometimes hear (and wish I could replicate) Wilma’s chuckle because it just makes me giggle inside.
Dorothy passed on several years ago and Wilma is . A number of years ago, Wilma had a stroke that left her with an inability to articulate sentences well. Her mind was sharp as ever, but the words couldn’t find their ways through her lips. Sometimes in frustration, she would just stop and smile and me and I would tell her that I knew what she meant and the relief would settle in her eyes.
My imagination sees Wilma and Dorothy standing behind the pulpit ready to sing. Outside the stained glass windows angels peer inside. They are about to be schooled in how church music should really sound. The piano player runs through the intro and the Sommer’s Sisters begin to sing. Heaven kneels in silence.
There’s a land that is fairer than day
And by faith we can see it afar
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
In the sweet, by and by
We shall meet on that beautiful shore
In the sweet, by and by
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.
I would love to hear a story from you of someone who inspires you. If you’d like, I’d love to have you write the story as a guest blog on here. If not, email me and maybe I can write the story for you. At the end of the day, it’s people that make our lives rich and complete.
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