This weekend is one of those three day weekends that used to mean something different than a chance for no work, going places and having fun. Today is the Sunday part of that weekend and we walked the few blocks to the live broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word held in the Tabernacle at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
We were a little later than usual, not being able to get the mattress off our backs. Not good on a holiday since many people head for this event each Sunday but more on Memorial Day weekend. We were able to get in but our seats were way in the back and behind a post. Seeing isn’t as important as listening especially with the combination of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Tabernacle’s acoustics. Settled in we relaxed as we listened to the rehearsal before the live show began. Every available seat was taken and doors were shut while the audience hushed and the broadcast began.
This choir is always amazing but to hear them live, with a full orchestra in this building is something you have to experience to believe. Off a bit to the right I noticed a man next to the aisle one row up. He didn’t seem to fit with the mostly well dressed folks in the audience. Even casual dressers are tidy and clean. I first noticed his hair. It was short but sticking up rather weirdly and I don’t mean fashionably weird but unkempt weird. He had on white socks but they were badly soiled. He kept picking something out of his hair. Ugh, I thought, poking Larry and whispering “I think that is a street person.” The man next to him, I noticed, was giving him a wide berth, not wanting to get too close. I wondered why they even let him in the door.
I became engrossed in the music and the program whose focus was, To the Fallen Soldiers Let Us Sing. Yet, the man kept rubbing and picking at his head which was distracting. I was glad it wasn’t me who was sitting beside him. As I watched him I began to feel more compassionately toward him. I said a silent prayer for him because he obviously didn’t have a good life.
The choir’s next number on the program was Who Are the Brave? Tears began to roll out of my eyes. Washing over me was a strong feeling that this soiled, unkempt man was one of the brave! Silently I wept through the rest of the program and as Larry can tell you, I am not one of those crying woman types. I thought of the many that had gone to war and came home changed forever, physically, mentally, emotionally. The glorious finale of the program was Battle Hymn of the Republic. The man gently waved at the choir. I grabbed Larry and almost shouted in his ear, “He’s waving at the choir”.
Lloyd Newell, the announcer, asked that those in the audience that had served their country in the armed forces to please stand so they could be acknowledged. The man stood and subtly waved at the choir again. I thought about how Christ takes us in His arms and wipes away all our tears when we leave this life and I knew He would do that for this man. He would not care that the man was dirty and unkempt and not quite normal. As the program ended and as we stood up to leave, Larry went over to the man, who was still sitting, shook his hand and said, “Thank you” as did I. The man looked up at us, his face surprisingly young, and said, “You’re welcome.” It was not just another Memorial Day holiday this year. It was a holy day.