By Rev. Everette Chapman
Some would chalk it up to sheer coincidence. Some of us would call it a “serendipity.” Many would see it as a “God wink.” Whatever it was, it spoke to me.
I was walking through the main lobby at Mission Hospital in Asheville one Sunday. I was at Mission to visit with Binney Miller, of blessed memory. She was a wonderful friend to Mrs. Chapman and me and to many of the readers of this issue of The Mountain Breeze. We did not know how much longer she would be able to live. Representing our family of faith and our caring community, I was there to spend some special time with her while she was yet alive.
As I walked through the lobby, I noticed once again that off to the side in that vestibule was a player piano. Often it is playing what kids would call “elevator music,” so as I passed through, I paid little attention to what was being played. I was on my way to the room of a dear church member and friend who had been diagnosed as terminal. My visit with her made me sad, for we have been friends for almost twenty years, and I miss her terribly. Ministers experience painful emotions too, and mine that day were all but excruciating.
As I came back through the lobby, the piano was still playing, but suddenly I recognized that it wasn’t playing itself. I walked closer and looked to see who was playing it. Sitting in erect dignity was a beautiful African American lady, whose snow white hair, carefully-coiffured, was queenly. Her facial wrinkles reflected dignity and reverence, and she sat quietly playing some of the old songs I remembered from my childhood.
The first one was “Does Jesus Care?” As she played, I hummed the tune and pictured the lyrics in my mind. “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth or song; as the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long? The chorus reassured, “O yes, He cares, I know He cares. His heart is touched with my grief. When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.”
At that point, I sat down and just listened. Her next song I had not heard in sixty years. It declares, “I must tell Jesus all of my troubles; I cannot bear my burdens alone. In my distress, He kindly will help me. He ever loves and cares for His own.”
I could not believe that this incredible sequence could be prolonged by the delightful lady on the keyboard, but it was. Her third selection was another childhood favorite. A few of you will remember. “Just when I need Him, Jesus is near, just when I falter, just when I fear; ready to help me, ready to cheer, just when I need Him most.”
I do not know the name of this musical messenger from God. I do not know why she happened to be at Mission Hospital at just that moment that particular day. I cannot guess what inner motivation led her to play those old hymns on that piano. What I do know is this: her music told me that “Jesus cares,” that “I could tell Jesus” about my dear one upstairs, and that “just when she needed Him most,” He would be there for her. That was more than coincidence; that was the Providence of a God of love.