My friend Linda is one of those kinds of friends that drift in and out of my life. The kind of friend that I see infrequently, but when we gather together over lunch or dinner, it's as though we've had coffee together every morning for the past six months. Our conversation isn't constant, but our friendship is.
We share many commonalities including a simple Southern upbringing where we ran barefooted on summer days and spent many mornings sitting in Sunday school classes taught in little, white clapboard churches. We often share our memories, our eyes tearing up as we recall those days past and the loved ones now gone from this life.
A while back, we were honored to be two of only five or six invited to a private taping of a Bill Gaither Homecoming video at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House. As familiar songs from those Sunday childhoods rang out between the hollowed walls of the Opry, we both shivered with the sheer joy of those memories singing in our hearts.
Linda reached over, squeezed my hand and whispered, "Isn't this wonderful? Can't you just see the old upright piano over in the corner? With yellowed keys?" She laughed lightly. "And some of the keys stuck?"
Last Christmas, Linda e-mailed to say that she had something special she was sending, along with her Christmas card.
And special it was.
Linda and her, husband, Lang, had gathered their two daughters together, gone into the studio and recorded a non-commercial CD of gospel songs that was for their private collection and a gift for family and friends. This isn't just an ordinary family singing songs around the piano in the living room. Linda Davis is a Grammy-award winning artist, having won for her duet with Reba McEntire for "Does He Love You?" her husband, Lang Scott, won a national talent contest that plopped him down in Nashville, and their daughter, Hillary, is the female lead in the hot-as-a-firecracker country group, Lady Antebellum. At nine years old, the other Scott daughter, Rylee, has yet to win Grammys like her mom and big sister, but that time is probably coming. Like the rest of the family, she sings like a bird on a clear blue spring morning.
The Scott family selected 10 songs, then wrote a paragraph why each song brought back heart-warming memories. For "The Old Country Church," Lang wrote, "I can remember going over to Granny's house on lazy Sunday afternoons with guitars and voices a-blazing. Uncle Dreyfus would always play this song and I can still see his head rearing back as he sang the chorus."
His memory teased one back to my mind of a family celebration a couple of years ago when we had gathered in the living room and spent two hours playing the piano and singing old hymns. You should probably know that I am the only person in my family who cannot sing or harmonize.
Linda wrote of various memories connected to songs like "Power in the Blood" and "Standing On the Promises" and about the little Baptist church of her childhood in Gary, Texas. On "I Surrender All," she wrote, "Hillary's pure and rich vocal with this melody chokes me up every time I hear it ... and that has been often while preparing this project."
I love this special CD and have played it repeatedly, drifting back toward a time when there was no air conditioning in church -- we used hand fans provided by the funeral home, often with a photo of Jesus knocking on a door -- and the benches were hard and not padded. Flies buzzed in and out of open windows and children did not dare to stir for fear of being taken outside for their own come-to-Jesus meeting.
Through the music, my sweet friend and I shared a long, thoughtful conversation. And I loved every word.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know About Faith. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her newsletter.