I have never considered “Happy Birthday” to be such a wonderful musical piece.  It’s OK to sing it around the birthday cake for friends’ and families’ celebrations, especially kids, but the older I get, the less enamored I am to hear it, especially when it’s sung in my honor, since I’ve attained that mid-life station that dulls our enthusiasm for those annual milestones.

So, we come to this morning at church.   Our eldest matron was recognized on achieving her 102nd birthday.  Mrs. Ward rarely gets out of the house any more, so it was a special moment and, no doubt a treat, for her and her family to make it to the morning service.  Of course, congregational singing of “Happy Birthday” was part of the ceremony.

But singing the song this morning registered an impression and had an effect that has never struck me in all my years.  The keyboard instruments in the worship band framed the melody in the kind of eloquence we just don’t associate with the trite child-like melody that we typically warble a capella and half off-key in our household celebrations.   At the same time, the hearty chorus of 250 or so congregants lifting the air in swelling tones to the pinnacle of the sanctuary was sufficient to inspire goosebumps.

In the aftermath, I have a newfound respect and admiration for the piece.  I confess I’ve often regarded the song as part of an annoying little ritual that we go through right before the honoree blows out the candles on the cake.   But I heard the song this morning as a high anthem of joy.  The joy of celebration.  An act of celebrating life, especially abundant life.  The joy of life as opposed to the sorrow of life’s grim alternative.

Yep, “Happy Birthday” really is a happy song.  I will respect it more in the future, even when they sing it for me the next time my odometer turns a new mile.

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