From A Year of Morning Thanks
Some time ago, I unearthed an old cassette tape, a sermon my grandfather preached in December of 1951, Oostburg, Wisconsin, the town where I was born and reared. Years ago, my uncle gave it to me, a man who himself has been gone for decades.
I knew that sermon was delivered in my home town, the church where I spent my first seven years or so; I knew it when, halfway through, a train went by on the tracks just a few hundred yards west. It was an evening service.
I plugged it into an old Walkman when I took a walk. It was terribly cold out, but I walked almost three miles, warmed by an ancient sermon that sounded almost exactly like I would have guessed it would have. I never heard my grandfather preach, at least not that I remember. He baptized me—that much I know. I was six when he died.
But the moment I heard his voice, I recognized it. Honestly, somehow I knew that voice as his. I have no clue where the reservoir of memories lies in the brain or how wide and encompassing it is, nor what function stands guard to let what specific memories in. But the pitch and timber was there somehow. Very strange. Almost eerie.
My grandfather was no stemwinder, no Billy Graham. But I don’t think I could have enjoyed that hour more than I did, listening to an old man hold forth in a voice I recognized, in some ways, to be something of my very own.
And for that I’m thankful.