I am going to share with you a VERY little-known story that has stayed primarily in my immediate family. I'm not sure I know anyone else in my family who has heard this one. But I am going to share it with you.
My mother would be so embarrassed if she were here, but she is not. During the Christmas season of 2018 she very suddenly went to be with Jesus. I share this story not just because she can't stop me now, but because I think you'll giggle a little bit. And she did like to laugh … even, to much chagrin, at herself. My uncle read my following words at her memorial celebration of life and part of me wanted to hear them again.
Mom's parents had many gatherings around the table with friends or family. This story may have been one of them, but all she told us about it was that at the time she was making sure that she sounded smart in front of their guests. So she was trying to use impressive vocabulary.
She was about … oh, nine years old?
It was a simple request. She wanted some dinner rolls at the table and there was a basket of them out of reach, so she politely asked. She asked if someone could, "Please pass the p'yonders."
But no one budged. Of course! No one knew what a p'yonder was! They just looked at her inquisitively. She looked back at them and asked again...
SO, what is a p'yonder, you ask?
What? Don’t you know? You know the song about them, right? See, my mother thought that a songwriter penned about them in a beloved church song many years ago and she had heard it over and over in church, so SHE thought everyone knew what I p'yonder was!
Apparently, to that little girl, Anne Smith, she thought that song was about sitting around a dinner table in heaven and that the dinner rolls would have a different name …“p'yonders.” And that the songwriter must have penned about longing for that day, because instead of speaking of a celestial roll call he was surely just hungry and craving some divine dinner. What she heard, as the lyrics suggest, was that “when the roll is called a p'yonder I‘ll be there!”
So that was it. She asked to pass the p'yonders.
How ironic. Right now she is possibly sitting around the dinner table with those same people who were there that day --- her beloved older sister and parents, a brother, her brother-in-law she loved like a dear uncle, or possibly even her grandparents, the ones she always grieved that she never got to know.
What a beautiful feast it will be for all of us. Friend, if you get there before I do, I invite you to join that feast. I'm sure I will get a chance to sit with you too, but my mother is currently saving me a seat for me, possibly right next to the one she is saving for my dad.
And whatever you do, don‘t forget to try the p'yonders. The experts over yonder say they’re l delicious. Some may even claim heavenly.
I don’t know about you, but when the roll is called a "p'yonder" I most certainly plan to be there.
"...when His chosen ones shall gather
to their home beyond the skies..."
(C. Barny Robertson & James M. Black, 1893)
After that story was read at mom's celebration of life service, I stood and sang that song with a church-full of people who loved her and love Jesus. I collapsed in tears, but not just because I was crying an exhausted cry, but for the mere fact that the humour of it all overcame me as I pictured her laughing with her family and Jesus while saving seats for the people she loved the most. There was big bowl of dinner rolls being passed around. And guess what everyone was calling them?
You got it. What else would you call them up there?
I saw her sharing a meal with the true Bread of Life while munching on p'yonders. This is the very best I could ever wish for her, for anybody, and for you. How very fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom. Amen?
P.S. If you get a chance to listen to this ... you hear it, don't you? P'YONDER can't be unheard, no matter who sings it!
P.P.S. Yes, she had another first name, but only by birth record. Anne Smith really was my mother's maiden name. Yet unlike that name, she was far from ordinary. ;-)