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Remembrance of Easter

By Susan (Sam) Buchenau, member of United Church of Christ of La Mesa

     When I was a child my home church, Lemon Grove Congregational United Church of Christ, had perhaps the best church choir in East County.  Those were the days when ladies often wore hats and gloves and gentlemen always wore jackets and neckties to church, and long before the time when congregations would spontaneously break into appreciative applause after the choir’s anthem – God forbid.  But our choir deserved it.  They were that good week after week.

     There were some 40 voices on any given Sunday, a number of whom were past or present students at Mount Miguel High School.  Many of their families were members, but several sang with our choir because our choir director was the very talented vocal music director at Mt. Miguel, Bob Boucher.  And that choir could sing.  We had several talented soloists – some were former students of Mr. Boucher now singing at San Diego State College (yes, it was that long ago) or the University of San Diego.  Sometimes they would have parts in productions at the Circle Arts Theatre or Starlight or even the Old Globe.  They were the best of San Diego.

     Year after year Mr. Boucher was asked to direct the choir for the Easter Sunrise Service on Mount Helix, and of course the LGCUCC choir was the centerpiece of that choir.  So from the age of 7 or 8 I dreamed of the day that I would be grown up enough to join that choir, and get to sing at the Easter Sunrise Service on Mt. Helix, and try out for the choir at Mt. Miguel.  Big dreams.

     God surely has a sense of humor – and even today it sometimes it feels like it’s at my expense.  I only wish that I understood the joke more readily.  My family moved to the eastern slope of Mt. Helix before junior high (no middle school in those days).  I would be attending Monte Vista High School – not Mt. Miguel.  And just about the time I was old enough to join the church choir, Mr. Boucher left LGCUCC – no doubt a better job offer – but I was crushed.  I feel certain his new choir sang on Mt. Helix that Easter – ours did not.  And there it ended, my slightly narcissistic childhood dream.  Or at least that’s the way it seemed for many years (no need to ask how many).

     Fast forward to 2010.  Grown up, married, now a member of the United Church of Christ of La Mesa, I learn that our UCCLM choir has been asked to participate with a multi-church choir in the Easter Sunrise Service on Mt. Helix.  I told you God had a sense of humor.  Never mind that I don’t sing in the choir – that’s a small hurdle compared to the ones I’ve already experienced in the pursuit of this dream.  I talk to Joanne Skinner, and Abracadabra!  I’m in.  I show up for practice, gather my music and get assigned to a robe.  I go to the special Easter Saturday practice at Foothills United Methodist.  The music is challenging but familiar.  The register is stratospheric – all F’s and G’s – eek (or perhaps I should say “screech”).  But that’s okay – I’ll make it work.  We have to arrive at a decidedly un-Godly hour – o dark thirty.  Who cares?  This is my big chance to finally sing on Easter on Mt. Helix.

     When I arrive home after the Saturday rehearsal, I begin straightening up the house and making preparations for the Easter dinner we will be enjoying with family and friends the following day.  On the kitchen table Tom had left a stack of papers from the previous day – Good Friday.  Tom reads the newspaper cover to cover almost every day.  In the spring he usually starts with the box score from the Padres game the night before and progresses through the world and local sections, the obituaries, and saves the comic strips for last.  As I am moving the Friday paper to the recycle stack my eye falls upon a familiar name in the obituaries – Robert Lyman Boucher – Bob Boucher – Mr. Boucher – died March 25, 2010, 84 years old, of Parkinson’s.  Wow!  I sit down hard on a chair the kitchen table – it seems like all the air has been sucked out of the room.  This is irony befitting O’Henry.

     We arrive early.  It is still dark and very cold.  We all wear fleece jackets under our choir robes and look like polar bears.  The rows of the concrete amphitheatre facing a still starry Western sky are steadily filling with congregants – many of them attend only this one service of worship all year.  For many this is an annual tradition.  I have been to the top of Mt. Helix many times, but this is the first time on Easter morning.  I am in the back row of the choir, on the right, facing East toward the gathering crowd.  The sky is scarcely beginning to brighten; the sun is still below the horizon as the Easter Sunrise Service begins.  Barely enough light to read our music for the opening song.  During the morning  prayer I lift my face, as I often do in prayer, but today it is at that perfect brief moment when the sun springs above the horizon behind me.  I am astonished by the rosy golden light of dawn on the faces of the worshipers.  Beautiful, glowing, Easter sunrise – awe inspiring, miraculous Easter sunrise.  It is everything I had ever dreamed it might be.  A child’s prayer answered.  Thanks, Mr. Boucher.  Thanks, God.

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