Songs from the Middle RoomPublished 8:11pm Saturday, June 22, 2013
By Dennis Edwards
It was “smack dab” in the middle of her house at 406 Smith St. A bona fide Middle Room.
At one time it was the dining room between the front room (later converted to Grandma’s bedroom) and the kitchen. There was a collapsible table next to one wall, a china press on the other. On the wall next to the kitchen sat an old heater with a cup of water on the vents to give the heat moisture.
But my favorite middle-room spot was next to the window where Grandma’s rocking chair sat.
It was nothing special by modern standards. Made of what we used to call “pleather,” it had the kindest squeak when she rocked. After school, Grandma would make sure I was secure and comfortable watching TV on her bed. Then she’d retreat to her rocking chair.
Oh the songs she sang while rocking. One of her favorites was “I Love To Tell The Story, of Unseen days and times, of Jesus and His glory of Jesus and his love.” Then she’d sing “He’s sweet, I know,” “Lead me Guide me,” “The Lord will make a way somehow.” She sang them with a “Blessed Assurance” that quietly shredded my soul.
I always wondered what was on her mind when she sang like that. Was she missing my grandfather, Papa Clem or her son (my father), who died too young? Did she long for the mother and father who passed on long ago? Maybe she worried about her youngest daughter suffering from advancing dementia. Maybe she was celebrating what she had and whom she had.
Whatever the reason, she took it to the Lord in prayer in the Middle Room.
Isn’t it funny how things, people and places come back to us in the strangest times?
Life caught up with me in college and wherever I practiced journalism and ministry. Right in the middle of our pain, life catches up with us.
In the middle of one of those moments when prayer merged with the frankness of humanity, the Lord did me a favor. I could suddenly feel the warmth of that Smith Street Middle Room and the presence of the sweetest woman I’ve ever known.
With every question and worry, I heard the squeak of Grandma’s old rocking chair. With every “Why” and “Why not,” I could hear Grandma’s voice singing, “The Lord will make a way somehow, when beneath the cross I bow.” With every fear I could hear her singing “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”
With every doubt about this preaching call I’d received and how to blend it with a career in journalism, I could here her sing “I love to tell the story.” I could hear her voice on the other side of her open door telling me something that would center my soul through every uncertain second in life. Whatever you do, “Tell the story, boy. Tell the story.”
I learned to tell the story from pulpits all over the country. And to tell the stories of people whose tragedies I covered with a camera from Richmond to St. Louis, Raleigh, Detroit and Baltimore — of people who spoke with me about their faith while the body of a son or daughter lay lifeless on the street outside their door.
I learned the story in that Middle Room where Grandma sang her faith in the resurrected Lord. Her songs are the background music of my life, the soundtrack that runs over the rhythm of my thoughts. I suspect the serenade will never stop.
Who knows? From the Middle Room, it may be that the Lord will allow her voice to sing me home one day.
Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award-winning television news reporter and anchor, He is a 1974 graduate of Suffolk High School. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.