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“God gave us music that we might pray without words.” This heartwarming sentiment exists on a beautiful cross-stitched piece, framed and given to me by my daughter.

From the wall of my dining room, the affirmation reminds me daily of the importance of music in my life. If my house could talk, it would surely say that there have been many joyful times within these walls, much laughter — and many tearful, heartbreaking times — but no matter what, there was music.

There was always music.

I was born into it.

As a child, listening to my mother sing as she did her housework, and watching her sing in the church choir on Sunday mornings made me happy.

She came from a musical family. Her brothers sang and played the guitar. Her younger sister sang as well.

When we visited my grandmother, nothing pleased me more than being there on a Saturday night when my aunts and uncles got together with their guitars and sang for hours. There was always lots of laughter, food and fun.

After I was married and had a family, I occasionally took our children to visit my grandmother. Even after many years, the corners of their mouths still turn up and their eyes sparkle when they reminisce about those family song fests.

Thankfully, God allows joyful experiences to live in our hearts forever.

It was my relatives’ rendition of “How Great Thou Art” that persuaded my father to ask that the beautiful hymn be sung at his funeral. When he passed, my mother enlisted a fellow choir member to grant his request.

The walls of the old country church fairly quivered as this woman passionately delivered the compelling song of praise to God. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church when she finished.

Sadly, I didn’t inherit my mother’s vocal chords. The only time I feel free to belt out a song is when I’m alone in my car.

I put on a favorite CD, make sure all the windows are up, and sing along at the top of my crackly voice to my heart’s content. Sometimes, I enjoy myself so much that I take the long way home so I have more time for singing.

Aware of my disappointment about not being able to sing, my mother enrolled me in piano lessons and dancing classes when I was quite young.

I loved both! However, when my schoolwork eventually became more challenging, my mother suggested I choose one of the outside classes and drop the other. There was no contest.

Without hesitation, I chose the piano.

I loved music. Nobody ever had to make me practice, although I’d bet my parents sometimes wanted to pay me to stop! Right after dinner each evening, I’d sit at the piano for an hour or more practicing. By the time I was 14, I was playing for children to sing at Vacation Bible School. I participated in yearly recitals and, at 16, I was teaching beginners at my home after school and on Saturdays.

When I became bored with lessons from local teachers, my mother went in search of someone to rekindle my former enthusiasm. She finally found an elderly gentleman who, fortunately for us, had one opening. His lessons were expensive, but after my mother considered his credentials, she grabbed the opening.

I’m grateful. This man made a lasting impact on my life. He was a well-known teacher of German descent. For three years, I saw him every Saturday, rain or shine. Just spending time with this exceptional man was an education in itself. He related many stories about his childhood and the famous people with whom he’d come in contact as a boy living in Germany. He was in his 70s and a colorful character to be sure.

Besides teaching me to play the piano, Mr. Schultz also taught me that music is stored in the heart of everyone, whether they are gifted or not.

“In our greatest moments or in days of deep despair,” he said “there is music within each of us. Songs of worship and praise can arise in the soul in times of joy and in times of sorrow.”

Remembering Mr. Schultz, I often wonder: Does everyone have someone in their past who made such an impact? Or am I just very blessed?

What a dreary world it would be without music. What if there were no birdsong? Try to imagine a wedding without the “Wedding March,” a graduation without “Pomp and Circumstance,” a ballgame without the national anthem, or a church service without the singing of hymns, accompanied by lovely piano or organ music.

Whether we are humming as we do our daily chores — praying without words, as my beautiful cross-stitched piece suggests — or singing at full volume in church, music definitely has a positive effect on our lives.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com.

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