This week one of my Twitter-buddies, Dorothy Bowe, contributes to the How Can I Keep from Singing? series by writing about a piece by a Boston-area composer with whom I have been able to work a number of times. Fran O’Brien’s music is gorgeous and it makes perfect sense that Dorothy would choose one of his pieces for both aesthetic and spiritual reasons. Dorothy is also Boston-area musician, offering her talents at local parishes.
Faced with the question of naming my favorite church song, I rather quickly settled on Francis Patrick O’Brien’s You are All We Have. In hindsight, this was something of a knee-jerk selection and frankly a little snobby and selfish of me. Yes, this is a beautiful song and the four part harmony on the refrain truly does gives me goosebumps. I also love listening to tenors and sopranos hit the soaring high notes on the verses and find myself humming the tune all day long. The selfish bit comes because I think I chose it primarily because as a pianist I enjoy playing it and as an alto want-to-be I can hit most of the right notes while accompany the choir.
However, as I went about my ordinary life over the next few days and began struggling to write this blog, the words began to speak to me. I wasn’t wrong to chose it, I just chose it initially for the wrong reasons and as the words reverberated in my mind, I began to see the deeper reasons. The refrain is so simple that I started to see it everywhere.
You are all we have.
While my faith has been fairly steady over the years I will confess to feeling it slip every now and then, especially during tough times. Everyone over a certain age remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. I remember that it was my son’s first day of preschool, but in addition to that, 9/11/01 was two days after my cousin’s 10 year old son died suddenly from an undetected heart defect. The grief, confusion and shear anger surrounding those days truly had me questioning God. And yet, as I watched the preschool children play joyfully in the moment, watched carefully by loving parents, a tiny bit of peace emerged from the despondency.
You give us what we need.
My mother will turn 93 in a few months and no longer drives, so for several years I have driven her to many appointments. On a recent trip she apologized in advance and said that due to her deteriorating eyesight, she would probably depend on me for more help in the future. While reassuring her that it was no problem, I realized that it actually is no problem. When I left my full time job in high tech to stay home with small children, I planned to return to work one day. Instead, one thing lead to another and I somehow found myself learning pipe organ and sharing music ministry at my local parish. Because of this accidental, or shall I say, spirit-guided, switch, I have the time to help my mother. Equally fortunate, I like being a musician even more than I liked my first choice of a career in high tech. Some people may think it was luck, but I prefer to think that God works in mysterious ways.
Our lives are in your hands, O Lord.
Our lives are in your hands.
I have spent several afternoons recently at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Hospitals are always sobering reminders of the fragility of life and more so when the patient is an infant. Only eight weeks old, he has already endured two surgeries and is still on IV nutrition. I can, and do, gripe and complain and worry about his health, and I can only guess how his parents feel. The prognosis is good and yet it is still so hard to wait. I hold him in my arms and try to remember that this is how God sees us and that things will be easier if I can turn my problems over to Him.
How wonderful are your gifts to me, how good they are!
I praise the Lord who guides me and teaches me the way of truth and life.
Massachusetts native Dorothy Bowe is a mother to two teenagers and currently resides in Belmont, MA and is member of the St. Joseph St. Luke Collaborative Pastoral Team (www.ssjl.org). Despite majoring in computer science degree she finds herself a music minister and a Making Music Praying Twice (www.makingmusicprayingtwice.com) teacher at the collaborative and a piano instructor on the side.
Paulette Walter says
I wanted to comment on Dorothy Bowes’ recent article “You Are All That We Have”
I am the wife of one of the many cousins in Dorothy’s family.
I also have many questions about religion. It usually makes me feel uncomfortable when the topic arises. I think Dorothy made her questions and thoughts sound very reasonable, comforting and not intimating to read. In general, I feel intimation and guilt is what shies many away from religion and the church. I often have felt that way.
Her thoughts and questions about a child’s life being taken away too soon, is one I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager. Even her words from the song and many words taken from the Bible help but not totally. There still is an ache in the pit of my stomach that never goes away as well as an ache in my heart for their family.
Singing is a beautiful way of expressing yourself and in this case answering Dorothy’s many questions. I have a terrible voice and don’t have an ear for music but I’ll try to listen more carefully to songs to see if I can find answers and comfort in them.
margarita reed says
Just on the off chance, would you happen to know anything about the music that Dorothy Bowe recorded with Mary Mollison, for the John Hassell recording label ( and studio of the same name) in Barnes, southwest London sometime in the late 60’s or early seventies ?
John Hassell was a prolific producer and I know that the two recorded with him but I would like to know more about it…how it sounded, was it folk music, or otherwise ?
The only info I have is that Dorothy was mezzo soprano, and Mary Mollison was her ” accompanist”.
Any help would be most appreciated.