“Words and Music,” Aug. 15, 2017

I grew up in a family of sinners and singers and storytellers. Maybe you did, too. We didn’t have much materially, but we had each other and a whole lot of fun.

By the time I was old enough to know right from wrong _ 4 or 5 years old _ I had learned three fundamental facts of life:

1_ Money might be scarce, but it doesn’t really matter as long as you have enough. In the poorest of times, we had enough.

2_ Sin is bad. It’s best to avoid it if you can. The good news is it can be forgiven. If you think you’re sinless, think again. A saint is a sinner saved by grace.

3_ Singing and storytelling are good for the soul and absolutely free. Even if you can’t carry a tune or turn a phrase, you can still sing a song or tell a story. Just take whatever is in your heart or soul, put it into words or music, set it free and watch it catch fire in someone’s eyes.

My family did that for me. My grandparents and parents, my aunts and uncles, my sister and brothers and dozens of cousins. Whatever we lacked in wealth, we more than made up for with stories and music and love.

My mother and her eight sisters sang with the voices of angels.

My granddad, a Baptist preacher, took great pride in having them sing at church.

My grandmother, who seldom went to church, preferred to hear them sing around the table after supper or in summer on the porch. They fought, on occasion, like rabid dogs. But when they sang, their voices found a fine and perfect harmony that I still hear in most of my childhood memories.

My granddad, the preacher, told me stories from the Bible. Cain and Abel, Moses and Pharaoh, David and Bathsheba, Jesus and Judas, death and betrayal and salvation.

My mother’s mother told me stories from her life. Hanging on the mane of a runaway horse. Hearing wolves howl outside the cabin door. Watching one man kill another in a knife fight. Seeing a vision of a tiny, rolling casket and realizing her youngest child was dead.

My dad’s mother read to me all sorts of stories from “Uncle Remus” and “Gone with the Wind” and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

My dad put me to bed at night with stories about hunting and fishing and sailing off to war through the Panama Canal.

I learned to read before I started school, and made up stories of my own to entertain my two younger brothers. They weren’t great stories, but they helped my brothers go to sleep. If a story didn’t work, I’d sing them a song. That usually knocked them out cold.

Singing and reading and telling stories were the best things I did for my three children. Feeding them didn’t hurt. Or doing their laundry. Or laughing at their jokes. But I’m proudest of the times we spent singing and reading and telling each other stories.

I do those things now with my grandchildren. They seem to like it, and need it, just as I do.

We all need words and stories and music to grow and to learn and to heal, at every age, every stage of our lives.

My sister had surgery recently to replace a bad knee. I can’t be with her, so I phone every day to check on her progress. It’s been slow. Painful. And discouraging.

There’s nothing I can do to change that. So I do what I can: I tell her stories. About my kids. My grandkids. My husband.

About the fog on the bay and the hummingbird at my window and the man walking a bulldog that looks exactly like him.

I sing for her, too. No, not on the phone. When I’m in the shower. In the car. In my mind. Or my dreams.

I lift her up with stories and songs and prayers for comfort and healing

It’s the least I can do for her.

It’s the best I can do for me.


  1. Teresa Peck says

    Your column, “Words and Music,” spoke to me. After my father retired he got into genealogy and once said, “I can’t find anything about my father’s father, my paternal grandfather.” I just shook my head and said, “Well he was in the Civil War.” He looked surprised and asked how would I know that. I told him one afternoon when I had arrived home from school I sat of the steps leading down to my grandfather’s bedroom as he often sang to me then. I don’t remember how the subject came up in between the songs but he said to me, “My father came home with blood on his blue uniform.” My grandfather would have been about four years old at that time but he remembered and as you said Sharon, family stories are important. We then did research and found all of my great grandfather’s service records and beyond. Your wisdom is so appreciated.

  2. Robbie J. Huffman says

    Our family was much like yours. This is one of many things I wrote about Mother’s family. Her dad was a church of Christ Preacher, wrote hymns and taught Singing Schools.

    McCords Strike a Happy Cord

    The McCords* are of one accord;
    we all like to use our vocal cords!
    We talk a lot but we get great glee
    singing together as a family!
    Most of us, and this you can quote,
    normally sing very happy notes!
    We’re harmonious in many aspects;
    we have for each other love and respect!
    When life deals any a note which is sour,
    the family rallies around with power.
    Some play musical instruments with ease;
    for these musicians, we are really pleased!
    As family is called home, we felt remorse;
    we’ll join them in the Heavenly chorus!
    When we meet the Director in Chief,
    there will be melody beyond belief!
    Robbie (McCord) Huffman
    *Mother’s family

    I have several more about Musical McCords and even more about Music.
    For your sister, there is life after knee surgery. I’ve had 3 and written many things about ‘bad bones’.

  3. Bobby Paschal says

    Sharon, my mother is 101 years of age and her eyesight is not very good now. She liked very much reading your columns in the Dothan Eagle Published in Dothan Alabama. She lives near Enterprise, Alabama. I live in Tampa, Fl and my brother lives in San Dimas Ca. We each stay with her six months of the year two months at the time. I now enjoy reading your column and I often read it to my mother. She enjoys it so muchI hope to be able to read your columns to her for a long time!

  4. Barb Dixon says

    Sooo …. After arriving in Las Vegas from Duke Center, PA last Saturday … we were driving to the Hoover Dam (then on to Williams AZ to take the train to the Grand Canyon). As we drove by signs for Henderson … I just wanted to call you to meet up for a visit & a cup of tea!!
    I truly appreciate your stories … as do many others!! They are just so relatable!!!
    Have a great month in Monterey!!
    Barb Dixon

  5. Billie Sommers says

    From one Nana to another, thank you so much for sharing your family and your love for them. Look forward to your column in the local paper each week. Thank you

  6. Love this Sharon. I love it when Kate says ” sing me the fishy song or tell me another story Nana. I’ll never tire of books, stories, or songs. Music is the best of our souls!?

  7. judy whiteheart says

    as always your stories touch my heart

  8. Carol Toothman says

    I wish I would have had a family like yours! Sounds so amazing. But I really love reading your stories. Thank you!

  9. Sheila Thompson says

    It sounds like we lived similar lives…mine just a few years before yours! Music was important in our house too. I remember our first console stereo from Montgomery Wards. Our first records were Southern Gospel-The Statesman Quartet-The Blackwood Brothers-& The Chuck Wagon Gang for my Dad!
    Mom read to us also. Books like “Heidi”, “Tom Sawyer”, “Fury”, “Black Beauty”, & the Sugar Creek Gang series. I read every Grace Livingston Hill book in our county library! I also read stories to my children & grandchildren. But now that they are tweens & teens they have lost interest in reading & would rather be on their electronics. Makes me sad…
    Thanks for the reminder of music! Our son-in-law has a beautiful voice, along with our daughter. He sings in a quartet & both sing at church. My hubby has a natural talent & is our church pianist. Me…I just have a song in my heart & a tap in my feet!

  10. JERI Duncan says

    Amen! Loved it!

  11. Kim Morgan Fink says

    After a restless night at a dadgum sleep study, this was just what this Carolina substitute sister needed to read over an early morning breakfast. I recognize ME in so many of YOUR amazing, thoughtful, funny stories. Glad for the comfort, or sometimes pain, that I find in your gift of writing, and then sharing, to so many of us each week. Love you Sharon!!! Have a blessed day : )

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