Thursday, January 15, 2009

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh

I attended a memorial service yesterday for my oldest brother's father-in-law, who, like my own late father-in-law, had served in the Navy during World War II. Two members of the Navy Honor Guard were at Bob's memorial service to present his widow with an American flag. Before they did so, they played a recorded bugle call of "Taps." 

Before I knew it as "Taps" or knew anything of its association with military protocol and military funerals, I knew its melody as something my father sang every time he tucked me into bed as a small child. My mother would sing a children's song about springtime (I think it may have come from one of those Concord Song Book volumes that were ubiquitous in my childhood, at school and elsewhere).  My father would sing to the melody of Taps: "Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky, all is well, safely rest, God is nigh." After which he would recite the Lord's Prayer, and then a short list of blessings: "God bless Mummy and Daddy and Dicky and David and Jonny and Peggy and Sukie and everybody. Amen." Dicky was my "ghost brother," my parents' first child who died before I was born. It was both utterly ordinary and yet also a little disconcerting to hear the name of my dead brother recited right there in proper birth order along with the rest of us. 

Sitting in yesterday's memorial service, letting the melody of Taps wash over me while tears ran down my cheeks, I thought about my father at bedtime, so many bedtimes over so many years. Just how long this tradition was continued, I have no idea. And I thought of those basic seeds of religious faith handed on in that bedtime ritual: the Lord's Prayer, the asking of God to bless each member of my family, including the brother who had died, and the singing of that song: "All is well, safely rest, God is nigh." These days that's more than ample a declaration of faith for me. No fancy theology needed. Just the basics: All is well. God is nigh. And while we're at it, God bless everybody.


Libby said...

We sing "Day is done" every night too, as a family. The younger two are ready for bed, one usually sitting in bed, and my teenager comes running in from her homework so she won't miss it. How long will this go on? I don't know, and I don't know what they will carry into adulthood from it. One thing I hope is that as they hear it at funerals, there is the peace of family gathered, and sleep in it.


Sukie Curtis said...

I love picturing your family ritual. And I am sure sure sure that something peaceful and enduring will remain with your three (and with you and Bob) on into the future. I love the fact that the song includes the day, the sun, the lake, the hills, the sky.