Make Ready

By Rev. Kristen Orion  •  December 09, 2021

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near!
- Philippians 4:4-5

The room is unremarkable; the women gather slowly. This one enters like a child, eyes wide and blue as blue, holding the hand of a volunteer. Just before her arrival another woman shuffled in on her own, settling into one of the sturdy lounge chairs; her face is soft and distant, as if recently wakened from sleep.

One by one, until the small gathering area in the memory care portion of the nursing home is a collection of walkers and brightly colored sweatshirts and cardigans warming grey and silver and white-haired women smiling tentatively or looking about anxiously or simply sitting silent and still.

We begin with “Jesus Loves Me,” Reba McIntire’s version and then her “O How I Love Jesus.” The third song is “How Great Thou Art,” and then another and then another, are lifting their hands, the deeply carried words rising with improbable ease to their lips. They sing. We sing.

“How great Thou art, how great Thou art…”

No longer tentative, or anxious, or silent, music returning words thought lost to voices turned beautiful by praise, we sing. We all sing.

The air about us comes alive; light shifts, sound shimmers. Eyes meet, joy is freed; our half-hour Worship Circle flows song by song into more than an hour. Women who often cannot or do not speak sit alongside sisters usually too agitated to stay gathered, just singing and singing and singing.

These women, daily and terribly quieted and disquieted by the devastation of dementia, simply and truly sparkling.

“One more! One more!” The hymns became childhood songs and childhood songs became folk songs and folk songs became Christmas carols and Christmas carols became Christmas hymns and then I found myself sitting in the presence of five “demented” woman as they began singing “O Holy Night,"

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night divine, O night, O night divine!

Everything else fell away; holiness a rushing Presence all around. And I heard them: the angel voices. And everything in me yearned to fall, fall, fall, to fall on my knees.

I prayed thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou thank you as the women sang on O night divine, O night, O night divine in that unremarkable room where Christ appeared and all souls felt their worth.

And I wept.

About the Author

Rev. Kristen Orion

Kristen Orion was ordained in 1999 on Pentecost in New York City. Her pastoral service began when she was installed to service on September 11th, 2001, ministering in the wake of the tragic day. She spent the next twenty years serving an array of people on many spiritual paths. Kristen has most recently been serving as a hospice chaplain, until she relocated to be closer to loved ones. She is married to Asa and they have a home in the country. Kristen is thrilled to be Chaplain at Pilgrim Manor and sharing in life and community together.

View all articles by Rev. Kristen Orion