I had an opportunity to sing a traditional dutch song with a Menno Place old men's Christmas choir past advent in five different locations at the Menno Place campus, thereby covering the entire 700 residents. I was made a tenor by the choir director but knew I was not much help to the choir as I don't read notes. I asked if I could sing something in the Dutch language, since many people from the Netherlands live at Menno Place.
I suggested a solo of a song which is sung in most dutch protestants churches and which I have been singing since childhood at Christmas and they graciously allowed me. Several people taped the event and a dear friend taped the entire song and shared it with me on face book. The song is called, in the English language, Glory to God and is literally taken from the angels as they song of the coming of the son of god on earth. In the old Dutch bibles it is recorded as Ere zij god.
The last time we as a choir performed was in the Menno hospital chapel which was filled. I saw a former church friend, who now lives in the residential care facility of Menno place was in attendance together with his wife and when the director gave me sign to come to the front I dedicated the song to them.
As I always hold on to my walker I had put a cap I received from a dear lady in the Netherlands on my walker, my thoughts were with several people I dearly loved – my brother John who I took with me when he was barely eighteen years old, and who recently died, my dear wife, my only son, my only sister, among the many friends and relatives who passed away, but also on the many people still alive, the beautiful young women who like sisters are tending to me, the many friends I made of the residents and staff of Menno place, especially the lady who shone the light of her camera in my eyes as she stood filming my entire song, the lady from Fryslân who sent me the Frisian cap and kept me younger than I am, well, anyways somewhat younger, the ladies keeping me in shape by exercising my old bones, the coffee shop ladies, funny that they are all ladies.
Some people know that I for years struggled with praying to god. Well, when I stood there glorifying god in front of all those people, those I loved and who love me, I just about lost it and got emotional. I finally did talk to god. And cried. I was unable to sing the last Amen, I sang the first syllable A, but our pianist Esther, played the last ...men.
Anne sent me this letter -
GLORY TO GOD!
Henk has been a resident at Menno Hospital, a residential care facility, for nine months now. This is the first Christmas season that we are living apart. It feels strange but considering Henk's deteriorating health we have accepted that this is the best option. We would be lying if we did not say that it has been a huge transition for both of us. It has been challenging!
It is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with Henk but we know that the Lord is with us, leading and guiding also in this situation. His grace is sufficient!
Recently we were blessed by a gentleman, Lex Smid, who is also a member of our church. Lex lives in one of the apartments at Menno Place and together with 12 other gentlemen residing in the apartments they formed a Christmas Men's Choir directed by one of the chaplains of Menno Place. On December 19 they performed for the residents and guests of Menno Hospital.
Prior to the performance, there was a buzz in the air that one of the choir members was going to sing a Dutch song. Unknown to us Lex sang a solo: “Ere zij God!” which translated to to English is: “Glory to God!” When Lex introduced the song, he surprised us by saying that he was singing it for Henk and I. As Lex started to sing Henk mouthed the the words to the first line! This was very touching as it is often hard to know how aware Henk is of his surroundings. I continued to softly sing the words of the song in Dutch to Henk as Lex continued to sing. Not wanting to alienate those who do not the Dutch language, I sing this song in English but is was very special for Henk to it in the language of his youth.
Thank you Lex, for sharing this majestic song with us and the other residents of Menno Hospital.
Thank you to our church family who continue to walk beside us on this journey of living with the effects of Parkinson's and Dementia.
“Glory to God in the highest!....Peace on earth to the people whom God delights in.”
Anne and Henk Oenema