Notes from Jan

Backseat Blessings

October 7, 2015

We were on our way to church.   I eavesdropped  as Maggie and Kate carried on a conversation like two old friends.  Suddenly Maggie let forth a piercing whistle,  followed by a scream from Kate, “Maggie, you’re hurting my ears!”  I said, “Yikes!  That really hurts my ears,too.”  So much for peace on earth.

While silence settled , I thought,”What’s in a whistle to Maggie or any  kid, for that matter?”   I’m pretty sure, it’s the same sense of pride of accomplishment that I felt as a child when I finally figured out how to whistle. A while later I found myself circling back to Maggie to affirm the skill but not the timing. “Better to whistle outside.”  I feared that a high, shrill whistle like Maggie’s could summon all area dogs  to  try and catch my Prius.

After a while, Maggie asked,”Do you have a favorite song?” I told her I loved, “Give me Jesus” and “Jesus Loves Me.”  When she asked why, I said, “Fernando Ortega’s song connects me to your Popo and to Jesus and the other song to my earliest memories of  being sung to  by my parents. Maggie  said,”Oh, I was hoping you’d choose ‘Where is Love?'” When I asked her why, she said, ” I wanted to sing it at your funeral.”

That gives one pause.  Couldn’t check my pulse while driving but knew it kicked up a notch or two. Maggie, sensitive grand that she is added, ” Luke sang at Popo’s funeral and  I wanted to sing at yours but I hope you don’t die for a long time, Momo”

“Me, either, Maggie. But just so we’re clear, I’d love to have you sing, ‘Where is Love?’  It is one of my favorite songs from a musical and you are, for sure, one of my very favorite singers.”

These grands have no idea how much they help me with their open conversations about life and death, punctuated now and then by a whistle to let me know I still have some hearing left. This goes back to decisions Jud and I and our children made to be open  with the grandchildren from day one about the seriousness of their Popo’s illness.   We’d learned that young children always understand more than we think they do and can handle more than we think possible.

Sunday’s Gospel reading came from Mark 10, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them…”  We have so many ways of “stopping them,” don’t we?  I’m better as a grandmother than I feel I was as a mother.  Now, there’s less “hurry up” and more “I have time.” But I’m still capable of snatching away a whistle or missing a chance to hear the song a child  needs to sing and I might need  to hear, even more

For several mornings I’ve been reading Psalm 119.   Verse 80 in the Message reads,”And let me live whole and holy, soul and body, so I can always walk with my head held high.” Shame free.

Reminders from the Old and New Testaments  challenge me to live “whole and holy.” So do whistles and words from two backseat blessings.

Where is Love?

Sitting right behind me as we drive to church, chatting away, whistling and screaming,”You’re hurting my ears!”



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  • Reply Jim Trent October 7, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    A blessing to begin the day (and the days). Thank you, Jan.

  • Reply Laura October 7, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Your writings are inspirational Jan! Thank you for the glimpse into your heart and car rides!

  • Reply susan October 7, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks for this. Maggie can sing “where is Love” at my funeral too. It was one of my audition songs when I was a struggling actor in NYC

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