Lessons to a Child

The Book of Common Praise, open to the hymn Jesus Loves Me
E. F. Rowe

When I was a little girl, my father would take us to Chance Cove, Trinity Bay every summer to visit his family. As I was the only girl, I naturally became a daddy’s girl so where dad went, I followed! Dad had a ritual of his visiting list for relatives and the first stop was always to see Aunt Polly. Aunt Polly was 88 at the time and spent all her time bedridden. She was my father’s oldest aunt, so she was always the first stop.

I remember entering the old saltbox house with its low ceiling. Aunt Polly’s son Norm was a tall man, and he couldn’t stand up straight in some areas of the house. Upon entering the house, dad would be offered a cup of tea. Then dad and Norm began to catch up on the local news and anything new happening in the community. As a little girl, I didn’t have much interest in the conversation so I would go upstairs to visit with Aunt Polly.

Aunt Polly would always welcome me heartily with a big squeeze of a hug and she would ask me to sit on the side of the bed so she could hear me. Her hearing wasn’t that good so being closer to her helped us to have a conversation. She would ask me about school and if I was being a good girl. She would ask me if I was going to church and Sunday School. She always inquired about how my vacation was going and whether I was getting outside and doing tons of playing. I would answer all her questions but then it was time to get down to business!

Every time I visited with Aunt Polly, she requested that I sing children’s hymns to her. She always had the prayer book and hymn book by her bedside within easy reach. She would pass me the hymn book and tell me to go to the children’s hymns. I would ask her if she wanted anything in particular, but the answer was always the same: just sing for me, my love!

So, I would sing to her. She particularly enjoyed “Jesus Loves Me,” but anything was grand as far as she was concerned. While my father and his cousin chatted downstairs, I sang to my Great Aunt. Sometimes dad and Norm chatted so long that I had to sing most hymns twice to pass the time. She sang along with most of the hymns. She would close her eyes and hum along when she forgot the words. At the end of every hymn, she wanted me to sing “Amen,” and it was then she would look at me and smile. “Thank you, my love, for singing to me. You don’t know the good you do for me when you sing.”

Aunt Polly loved to see me coming and she knew I would sit and sing to her until it was time to go. I knew that when I went to Norm’s house, my job was to sing to Aunt Polly. At eight years old, my connection to my 88-year old Great Aunt was through hymns—songs written about Jesus and his Father, and the Holy Ghost.

Songs about children being loved by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost not only brightened Aunt Polly’s day but also brightened my day. Through her love of the Lord her faith had influenced my life without me even realizing it. God doesn’t have to make huge signs like a burning bush or turning water into wine to show he is present in our lives; sometimes it’s the smallest gesture like singing to an old sick woman which makes an even bigger impression in your life! I’m so grateful for the time I spent with Aunt Polly as a child, and I’ll never forget the connection we had through those children’s hymns.

God Bless you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

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