will the circle be unbroken?

Will the circle be unbroken by and by, by and by.

There’s a better home a waiting in the sky,  in the sky.

I stood between my grandmother and granddaddy during the hymn singing and, although they each held a hymnal with the words and music, we all knew the songs by heart. I had to know them from memory since I was so young I couldn’t read yet, but my grandparents could have definitely read the words. They had sung the songs so many times during their lives, though, they didn’t need them. My granddaddy sang the melody, and my grandmother sang harmony or what I later learned was the alto part I tried to imitate for the rest of my life.

…we sang the songs of childhood, hymns of faith that made us strong…

My daddy was the song leader in the Richards Baptist Church in the 1950s. The Richards Baptist Church was a small congregation of 50 – 60 members that met on Sunday mornings for Sunday School and worship services, Sunday nights for Training Union and another worship service, and on Wednesday nights for prayer meetings plus a business meeting one Wednesday night a month.  My mother played either the black upright piano to the left of the small raised platform where the preacher and my daddy sat and stood up when they had something to say or she played the little pretend church organ to the right of the raised platform. I could barely see Mama even when I stood to sing from my seat with my grandmother and grandfather on one of the hard wooden pews toward the middle of the tiny sanctuary; I could always see and hear my daddy.

My maternal grandmother had a particular place she sat every Sunday morning during the worship service – a place down closer to the front of the church, but she always sat alone. My mother’s two brothers sat in different places every Sunday, but my Uncle Marion sat on the back row since he was late coming in from standing outside smoking that final cigarette. My Uncle Toby also sat by himself closer to the front but on the opposite side of the church from his mother.

One by one their seats were emptied, one by one they went away.

Now the family is parted, will it be complete one day?

My family members in  that little Baptist Church are, indeed, gone. But the circle of life and family is definitely not broken for me.  Hallelujah! There’s good news for the whole family when the circle is complete.

Drew with his daughter Ella as his mother NanaPretty smiles at them both

NanaSlow holds Ella as NanaPretty keeps smiling

When Ada R. Habershon penned the lyrics in 1907 to the song Will the Circle be Unbroken, she had no way of knowing what an iconic gospel and country music song this would become. From remote churches like mine in the piney woods of East Texas to the center stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee this song spoke to individuals and the masses. Her original lyrics changed through the years as different performers rewrote them, but the question remained the same.

Will the circle be unbroken by and by? Regardless of time or place, the answer is yes.

Stay tuned.




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 Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to will the circle be unbroken?

  1. cindy knoke says:

    So moving. Love to all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hope Mama is recovering well. You’re all obviously on cloud nine too! Lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Luanne says:

    Congratulations to the whole family! How wonderful! (And a wee touch jealous). Beautiful story, too. Such a musical family you were born into. That touch about the final cigarette—perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cindy Brazell says:

    Your memories of your grandparents in church certainly reminds me of mine. Since they’ve been gone things many things have changed. They were definitely the glue that held our family so close. Now that I’m a grandma I make sure mine knows the names and memories I shared with them. Family traditions some are made to be broken but most are to be carried on! I remember teaching my daughter the art of canning, that was a proud day for me! I’m more impressed that she does this every summer and fall! Congratulations on Miss Ella! Being a grandparent is the gift that keeps on giving!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Cindy….I’m so glad these words brought back your own memories. Yes, that generation was the one that held families together for sure. I think you’re right about being a grandparent!!


  6. Aww…how wonderful ❤ What a purrecious little girl ❤ Good Luck Pawkisses to all of you🐾😽💞

    Liked by 1 person

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