Breathing Space

november 1, 2009

This summer, as we looked toward a fall and winter with the lowest number of bookings in ten years, I wondered if God might be clearing our schedule for some purpose.  I think I know part of the reason now.

In August, Emily, my 24 year old daughter who lives in New York dove into a shallow swimming pool and broke her neck and three vertebrae in her upper back. Thank God for angels who work overtime—she is on her way to recovering fully with no lasting effects. But her initial recovery required ten to twelve weeks in a cervical collar and back brace with limited activity—so she came home to live with Karen and me for the first time in six years. She returned to New York a few weeks ago.

In October, Jocelyn’s father, Maurice Mandell, passed away. A week after his 88th birthday in September he fell and fractured his pelvis and a number of ribs and vertebrae. Although he appeared to be mending slowly in rehab, he lapsed into a coma one morning—probably from a blood clot—and died on the way to the hospital. Maurice was an opera singer with a bass voice of extraordinary power, and I was deeply moved when he made one last “appearance” at his own funeral service via audiotape—singing “How Great Thou Art.”

In the midst of life I seldom have any clear idea why things happen the way they do. But I’m grateful there was a little breathing space in our schedule that allowed Jocelyn and me to be with our families in a time of crisis.

And throughout everything that’s happened, I’ve felt surrounded and sustained by the prayers of friends and supporters. There is a season for all things; and clearly this is one in which I am being carried from one place in life to another, lifted by the generosity and faith of others—and I have an underlying sense of peace about the future. For one thing, we’re beginning to see bookings rise, beginning with February of next year. Much more significantly, I have seen God holding my children in the palm of his hand. When Emily finally left, I truly believe the reconnection and healing in our relationship was as profound as the healing of her body. And though we grieve the loss of Jocelyn’s father, she is grateful for the time she had in his last weeks to give him special birthday and anniversary parties and complete a family scrapbook as a gift to him.

What will the new year bring? I have no idea. But I do know this—the work we do, the art we create, the witness we give—lights the path for those who follow behind us, just as those who went before inspired us. For I will always hear in my heart Maurice’s awe-inspiring voice soaring with conviction: “How great thou art, how great thou art.”