Saturday, November 27, 2010

Now Thank We All Our God...a message from my father

Sunday, November 22nd marked the 22nd anniversary of my mother's passing.  For those who don't know me well, you probably didn't know my mother and also don't know the story of her 10 year battle with breast cancer and ultimate death in 1988.  My mother was an amazing woman in so many ways, and I was fortunate to have her in my life for 20 years. 

My father, Bill Libby, is still alive and very well, living in Abilene, Texas. He is 74 this year and still chooses to work full time at McMurry State University, teaching Old Testament and American History courses, and providing life counseling to students.  Dad sent the most moving email message on Monday of this week. I asked him if I could share it and he was happy to have me do so. 

Yesterday morning I went as usual to St. Paul United Methodist Church, taught my Sunday School class on the meaning of the “hajj” as we are studying Islam, then went to sing in the choir for the main service.  Was I surprised!  Thanksgiving is coming so the staff had chosen “Now Thank We All Our God,” as the opening hymn – congregation and choir.  And it got to me rather quickly – the combination of the song, the date, and the past. Here is the history of that song for me...
When Amy Dunkle and I were married in September 1961 at Grace Church down in Wilmington, Delaware, both of us had been students at Drew Theological School.  Both of us had some experience with church music of various types.  Her dad Bill Dunkle had been pastor at Grace Church for a number of years; Amy had gone to middle school, high school, Mary Baldwin College, and Drew from that church.
Planning our marriage, we decided to use that hymn as the processional, not a traditional organ piece.  So the church choir sang for us with a congregation of about 1000 people.  And as we processed, the church was ringing with that hymn being sung – “Now Thank We All Our God” for the wedding taking place, for the families, and for us.  It was very moving.  And the hymn became even more special for us.  Stationed in Germany, we would often hear it sung in local congregations in the original German form.
When Amy was at Walter Reed Hospital the final time, we now and then talked privately about her eventual funeral service.  And a couple of times, Chaplain Dick Tupy and I talked also.  Eventually we made a decision – “Now Thank We All Our God” had begun our married life; now the same hymn would close our married life.  So at the funeral that Thanksgiving week, we sang “Now Thank We All Our God” as the final hymn of the service at Arlington Cemetery Chapel.
And Sunday morning at St. Paul, I had to take out my hanky and wipe my eyes several times as we sang.  For a moment, I could not even see the page, but eventually got my focus and sang again though not as loudly as usual.  So an unusual combination of the date, the song, and the memories.  But we all have memories from various times in our lives.

So Thanksgiving is coming this week.  Blessings on all of you.  And don’t  forget to thank God for all you have and have had.

Love to All, Dad/ Bill

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