Michael Row the Boat

Halleluja! The river is deep and the river is wide, Milk and honey on the other side. Can you hear slaves singing this spiritual during the Civil War? I learned this song as a child and I was comforted by the repetition and simple melody. Of course no one explained the origin of the song, we were too young to understand. Or were we? Maybe we were steeped in whiteness, and black skin and black history were simply too far from our rural Iowa experience. But that’s a different road, and I want to talk about the comfort I get from this song today.

The cadence and repetition feel like a pendulum swinging back and forth, back and forth. The feeling is the same I got when I sang “rock a bye baby”to Tyler. I fell asleep, he did not. So Michael rowed and rowed till he got to the other side. I will be getting on a very large boat on Saturday, but I won’t be rowing it. I am going on a cruise to the Panama Canal with stops in Costa Rica, Columbia, Grand Cay and the Cayman Islands. So I guess I will be getting to the “other side” when we pass through the Panama Canal. There could be milk and honey on the other side! Milk and honey, prosperity and abundance, I’ll take it. This trip is a “stretch” for me: my first cruise, I am leaving the country, and I can’t swim.

One day I came to visit Roger at Meadowlark Assisted Living and he was having a low energy day and was napping. I peaked in and his eyes were open so I laid down beside him. And before I knew it we were reciting nursery rhymes and singing all the childhood songs we remembered. Roger had dementia but childhood memories were intact. We went from “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to “B-I-N-G-O was his Name” to “Jingle Bells” and somewhere in our musical journey we sang “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore”. I know Roger got to the other side on November 1, 2015. To milk and honey forever…

Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja
Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja

Sister helped to trim the sails, halleluja
Sister helped to trim the sails, halleluja

The river Jordan is chilly and cold, halleluja
Chills the body but not the soul, halleluja

The river is deep and the river is wide, halleluja
Milk and honey on the other side, halleluja

Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja

 

Michael Row the Boat

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