The Longer I Serve Him, the Sweeter He Grows…

The more that I love Him, more love He bestows.

 Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows –

the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.

——– Words and music by William Gaither

Certain songs move me – they take me to places with memories that lie deep, deep, deep in my mind.  Today I listened to a piano instrumental while I was driving around in my old Dodge Dakota pickup truck which has been resurrected by a second engine that sputters in fits and starts but manages to get me and my three dogs to our favorite destination: a field and woods next to the skateboard park in Rosewood.

This day is one of those days that I can forgive South Carolina for almost anything, including the ongoing struggles for very personal social justice issues.  Yes, it was that kind of day.  Perfect weather, incredible fall colors everywhere, and cloudless blue skies.

As I drove my little dog Red who barks incessantly when he gets in the truck and my big dogs Spike and Chelsea who fling themselves from window to window and jump back and forth on the console from the sheer excitement of the anticipation of running free, I thought to myself, you are a lucky person today.  You are healthy enough to take your family to do what they love to do most, and for you in this moment, life is good.

On the ride back to the house, the dogs were exhausted and I decided to play a CD made by an old friend here in Columbia…a collection of hymn arrangements that I recognized from my Southern Baptist roots in rural southeast Texas.  I listen to this CD a lot.  It’s the only one I carry in my truck and when I can tear myself away from sports talk radio, I’ll play it.  I know almost all the words to almost all the songs.  I’ve been sporadically listening to them for sixty-eight years.

While I listened to the Bill Gaither song, I was transported to a time with a vision of my mother practicing  the piano for the Sunday morning hymns at the church.  She was a church pianist for small Southern Baptist churches for more than sixty-five years before her dementia stole the music from her mind and fingers.  She had magical fingers that moved with precision to hit the right notes but also played with an emotional abandon that eluded her in her everyday life.

And she practiced and practiced. She sat very straight and glanced at the hymnal every once in a while, but mostly she looked at her hands because she knew all the notes.  She watched her hands make music.

You know, I wonder if those were her “life is good” moments.  I never thought about it until today, but she looked in my memory as happy as I felt this afternoon.  Maybe that’s why she always wanted me to sing when she played.  She hoped the music would connect us – draw us closer – carry us to a higher ground of understanding.  I’ll never know.

What I do know is that for me on a glorious November day, a piano player carried me home.

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The Longer I Serve Him, the Sweeter He Grows…

  1. Lee says:

    hymns in general are a happy place for me, the Gaithers in particular, planning on having a life is good moment with our 12 yo and big goofy dog named Gus in that very skate park this weekend…hope your sweet spot stays in place for a while 🙂


    • Thanks very much, Lee – I hope your life is good moment is the same for you tomorrow! I’ve got three tired dogs tonight!! It’s such a great place to take them…I usually don’t take Red…he sleeps so much during the day now, but he was wide awake and rearing to go so we all went!! 🙂


  2. Heather says:

    Your mother was a dear, sweet, precious and beautiful woman…inside and out! I am so thankful that she is part of my sweet childhood memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The Longer I Serve Him, the Sweeter He Grows… | I'll Call It Like I See It

  4. Linda Ketner says:

    Lovely, buddy …


  5. Is the song referring to a deity or a penis? I know it’s the same thing for guys either way, but….


  6. What a terrible thing to have music stolen from you. I wonder if she had a “day the music died” or if it became something just out of her grasp, a wispy memory? Church music is something that connects you to her. You’re keeping her happiness in your heart where it lightens your soul too.



    • Actually, Ann, the Memory Care Unit where she lived in her last years had a piano. When I visited, she would occasionally sit down to play and played “from memory.” It was amazing. She would play pieces of songs she used to play – just little bits – and then get up and walk off.
      One day I played and several of the women “sang.” Mom loved it.
      The disease is progressive, so I don’t think she ever had a “day the music died.” For sure, she didn’t quit singing until probably the last six months of her life.
      I stayed in the room for two days in her death vigil, and I had CDs playing old church hymns and I sang to her…too painful…


  7. Lisa Martin says:

    Well said, Sheila Rae.


  8. Millie Miller says:

    Your mother shared with you her special gift, the love of music. Ephesians 5:19 “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Millie, yes that Selma was a music lover and passed it right along to me. You know I was a reluctant convert to the piano practicing, but of course, now how happy I am that she kept me inside and made me learn. I can hear her now…:)


  9. boblamb says:

    This piece is itself as sweet as the sweetest of hymns. Love this line in particular: “[She] also played with an emotional abandon that eluded her in her everyday life.” A great line.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Harvey says:

    That was my Mom when I was 10 years old, psychological issues took most of her joy at that time but she always loved to play the piano, played by ear and beautifully as well. I was just thinking of her today. She’s been gone a long while now but I remember what it was like before she “left”. I was sad and at the same time pleased for her when she passed, she finally had peace. I look forward to our reunion one day : D


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