This old love song just STABS me whenever it rolls through my ear buds. The soundtrack to “Out of Africa” is great for grading trig tests, but when the quiet orchestra strains of this sentimental hit from 1919 comes on, I always set down my red pen and begin dabbing at my eyes.
With someone like you, a pal good and true
I’d like to leave it all behind and go and find
A place that’s known to God alone
Just a spot we could call our own
We’ll find perfect peace where joys never cease
Somewhere beneath the starry skies
We’ll build a sweet little nest somewhere in the west
And let the rest of the world go by
Dad always liked that song. Way back when, I remember him picking up a guitar to serenade his bride with it. He had a somewhat reedy voice, and comic pauses as he fumbled for chord changes. But I think back now on the 51 years he shared with Mom and there never was much of the sweet-little-nest-in-the-west in what L-O-V-E spelled out for them. Instead they rode together on a grimy freighter, six unglorious weeks, out to Asia. Where life was dirt roads, village Bible studies, annual baptism reports in single digits, setbacks and sorrows and separations. Not to mention the nonstop friction of raising so many less-than-sanctified boys: the four D’s.
Along with many other heroic missionaries at Bangkok’s Mission Hospital, Mom and Dad traded in the lyrical hideaway for a life of service. Clear up until retirement and beyond, Dad just kept on knocking on doors, visiting people, and inviting them to join God’s family. Sure, he and Mom generally marked their wedding anniversary, but church duties and mission commitments did sometimes push the June 3 party back to the following day or two.
So there never was a little cottage out beyond the horizon, a carved-out hideaway. It never happened. In fact, my parents were really just beginning to taste the awaited honeymoon of retirement when a drugged-out guy in a pickup truck ran up on the sidewalk and Dad’s love serenade got cut off even before the second verse.
Two points. Donald and I had the grim privilege of spending the rest of that night with our mom in a house suddenly barren and filled with permanent shadows. I still cannot believe how she bit back tears, gave us each a hug, comforted US, and then climbed into her bed alone. She lay there in prayer for a long while, asking for God’s presence, thanking Him for 51 years with her mate, and asking her Father to “help her be a good and cheerful widow and witness.” True story. I’m here to testify that my mother is a heroine beyond what I could have ever dreamed.
But I can’t help but think of that wistful song and the moment Dad and Mom meet again on the far shore. I think Jesus will greet them both and go through the “well done, good and faithful servants” bit. Then He might take them to the side, point through a grove of trees to where there’s a little cottage with trees in the front yard and swans on the lake. And murmur to them: “I know, I know . . . Matthew 22:30. Just go and enjoy it for a bit. We’ve got a party out here that’s gonna last ten thousand years. Join us when you’re ready.”
And right before He sends them off on that heavenly honeymoon, He’ll also hand Dad a guitar and show him how to hit that E major chord.