Mack Williams:  ‘Life’s little while’ line sticks in my mind

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 20, 2022

I recently sang for one of those always enjoyable “Fifth-Sunday-singing services,” a Methodist Church tradition. This was a joint event, pooling the congregations and choirs of three churches in rural Caswell County.

During my drive there, the air was not yet heated to its noontime temps, so I slowed down and enjoyed the late July greenery (my car’s air conditioning was not quite up to par).

After some miles of rural flora, I drove past a “pastoral” (no urban litter) creek, and later turned onto a narrower road where the trees, nettles, milkweed, and Joe Pye weed seemed to grow more intimately toward me.

I arrived upon a beautiful, and beautifully centered scene (like a painting), highlighted by a small, white-spired church nestled in a grove of ancient oaks. The church’s cemetery lay to its left; and despite the church’s age, the sacred ground of deposition wasn’t of sufficient dimension to “overshadow” the sacred building ( you might say: “The dead didn’t ‘show up’ the living”).

If it weren’t for the size, though small when compared to other churches, I could have imagined “the whole scene,” church, woods, and cemetery, all nestled together on a rural road as being the components of an over-sized, artistic “shadowbox.” It also made me think of “stations” built for the rest and prayer of the faithful on their “pilgrim journey.”

This scene became memorably established in my mind! Although I knew the people from one of those three churches (of which I used to attend); most of the other people, along with this church were completely new to me.

The combined choirs, violinist, and pianist performed beautifully, and my solo of “Living for Jesus” was well-received!

At the close, each shout of a favorite hymn’s title from a congregation member was gratified with congregational singing!

As I was shaking congratulatory hands afterwards, one man said:” Gosh, Mack! I haven’t seen you in 20 years!” I noticed the changes in his face, and I’m sure he noticed mine. But when any of us happens to look in the mirror, we’re kind of like vampires, seeing “nothing” reflected there of the life-made changes to our own faces over the years.

Through the church’s open entrance doors could be seen a torrent of summer rain, making the forest across the road look like it grew behind a pale green waterfall . Several gentlemen ushers with umbrellas stood in wait to help people to their cars.

One of them asked me if I needed his help; but I just said I’d wait a minute till the rain let up. I also felt that since my hips have been “made good” by modern medicine’s titanium and ceramic, I would have been “robbing from the more infirm.”

The granite walkway upon which I walked to my car had been heated by that late July, piedmont -”tropical” sun! So, it was no surprise that the rain, heated from above and below couldn’t help but release its nostalgic “rain smell molecules” into the air! They were even stronger than I remember from my youth!

As the raindrops fell, and my steps made splashes, I thought: “Nature’s waterpark!”

The “Life’s little while” line from my solo’s last verse stuck in my mind as I pulled my car back onto the rural road. In that “Life’s little while,” I had been in a church which was new to me. In that “Life’s little while,” I had met new people and seen someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of decades. And in that “Life’s little while,” I had smelled the fresh rain and walked as a boy walks on rain-splashed stones.

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