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I’m acquainted with folks over there

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By Camille McClanahan

I’m not one to mark time by anniversary dates. It’s just not how my mind works, and there are a lot of things that I try to forget.

Many events are etched in my heart, but a couple hit me like airplanes flown into the ‘twin towers,’ and for awhile, just like the towers, my life crumbled. My only granddaughter, 6-year-old Makenzie Beth, was killed in a car accident May 19, 2005, and less than a year later, April, 23, 2006, my 43-year old sister, and only sibling, Becky, died unexpectedly, and with no conclusion to the cause of her death to this day. When the anniversaries of these dates roll around, I don’t acknowledge them because, to me, it all runs together, they’re always gone and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss their smiles.

On Sept. 11, America remembered the 9-11 anniversary of terrorist attacks that killed thousands of innocent citizens, and the media covered the various memorial ceremonies. I don’t usually watch this kind of thing on TV, but I found myself listening as I worked around the house. Hearing the names tolled at ‘ground zero,’ I felt gloomy, and the national sorrow mingled with the shadow of my own sense of perpetual grief that follows me. It doesn’t take much to trigger my mournful doldrums. Little things, like seeing hospital scrubs on a rack in a store reminds me of my sister, a respiratory therapist who wore them almost every day of her adult life, just as anything with sparkles and pink frills makes me long for my little girlie-girl Makenzie.

However, it seemed strange to me that I felt like I should mark this day in some way, not being one to keep a running tally of the years of my bereavement, but I realized that each number, nearly 3,000, represented someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter—not just the loss of a nation, but a personal loss, just like mine.

I decided to go the the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North on Eibeck Lane. It was the most hallowed place that I could think of, but as I drove through Williamstown, I saw a group of people on the steps of the courthouse. One woman was standing with her hands held up toward heaven. I stopped to check it out. I had stumbled onto a Cry Out America prayer service.

One-by-one pastors from different denominations stepped to the microphone and led the group in prayers for Christian repentance, the nation, the youth, the schools, government officials, law enforcement, the military and firefighters. People were saying “Amen!” as the preachers talked. They lifted their hands and many were praying out loud at the same time. I felt like I was at an old fashioned revival service, and as I joined their prayer circle, it reminded me of the small nondenominational church that I grew up in.

Afterwards, someone asked, who had called the News. “No one. The Lord sent me,” I said.

Being with those lovely people brought back memories of the church of my childhood, where the congregation prayed out loud, at the same time, and my grandfather, dressed in a crisp white shirt led the singing. He stood with one foot on the school-seat that served as a pew, placed his elbow on his knee, holding his song book; he leaned forward and sung shape-notes to give the congregation the tune to the song. Then everyone joined in. When the singing was strong, the shoutin’ would begin and Aunt Berthie, who was a huge woman, glided across the floor when she “got happy.”

With my recollections, my hope is revived and I’m comforted by the words of an old hymn about heaven that Grandpa used to sing: “Through the years, through the tears, they have gone one by one. No, I’ll not be a stranger when I get to that city; I’m acquainted with folks over there.”

I was exactly where I was supposed to be on this day of remembrance. My accidental revival eased my sadness and refreshed my spirit, and I’m grateful for that small band of believers on the courthouse steps. It was a good day for remembering.

(Linda Lawrence is the editorial assistant for the Grant County News. She can be reached at gcneditorial@grantky.com.)