My Favorite Worshipper


It’s the second week of October in 2007. Tulsa, Oklahoma has just barely entered its fall season, but winter has overtaken my family months ago. My mom, who has been battling leukemia for nine years, is taken by ambulance to the hospital for the last time. There have been good days, bad days and days the word “terrible” can not even begin to touch.

And here is where the truth lives…every October. Before this last hospital “visit,” I have struggled to see my mom, to be there with her in her sickest of days, to spend every last moment with her. I want to run, I want to pretend this has already happened, I want to forget that I feel so alone.

But something is happening when I call the ambulance on this Monday morning. I stop running. I stop thinking about myself. I know these are the last days I will have. I know that I will have to make the most of these hours, these minutes, these seconds. When did time start moving so quickly? I can’t pull myself away from her room, from her bed. Prayers for healing continue to go up and all I can think is, “I need you here, but not as much as you need to be whole.”

You may ask what this post has to do with worship, so I’ll tell you:

My mother is a worshipper.

This night, the first of her last five nights on this earth, I do what I do best: I make her a playlist on my mp3 player. Somewhere I have the list of downloaded songs written down. But it’s not the songs that matter. What matters is that my mom wanted her last days to be filled with music that lifted her heart, her spirit to the One she was going to meet.

The longer my mom is gone, the more I want people to know her.¬†She loved music so much that she played the accordion. That’s right. The accordion. The only people who play the accordion are the people who can hear music where no one else can. I now have her accordion, but I can’t play it…yet.

I have countless memories of singing in church, my young heart bursting with love for Jesus, while my mom played the piano or organ, lead the choir, smiling as her own heart was bursting. As I stood beside her in church, she belted out the alto harmony to whatever song was being sung, or she sang in her quiet falsetto, unashamed. I listened with comfort and belonging as she clapped to the beat, danced a dance, and shouted her praises to the King she would see in a few years. It is only now that I see this music inside me, and my love for creating it is a direct result of what was happening beside me.

My mom is a worshipper. Avonna Lee Terpening is a worshipper. And, as far as I know, she never wasted one chance to rehearse for what eternity would hold for her on October 13, 2007.

As my sister and I planned my mom’s memorial service, I knew the most important part would be the music. There were five songs and hymns played that day, from different eras and different styles. I could almost hear her voice harmonizing with all of them.

My mom is a constant reminder to not let this moment pass by. I don’t want this moment to pass us by. Whether with words, a song, action, a hug or a smile, a heart turned upward, let’s take this moment to rehearse for eternity.

We are worshippers.