This is a simple photo with a dozen stories.
On the top row, on the left, is Cooper. He's joining our church youth choir for this week's mission trip to Florida. In addition to singing and speaking, he's performing a clarinet solo.
He's standing on the same altar on which he was baptized in September 2001.
The altar from which he tumbled to the ground when he was a mouse in a Christmas pageant in December 2005.
The altar on which he served as acolyte for more Sundays than I can count.
The altar on which he was confirmed as a full member of the United Methodist Church in May 2013.
Next to him is Jim McKee, a longtime church member, faithful volunteer and choir member. He's one of the brave souls who will chaperone our youth.
Jim sidled up to me yesterday after their rehearsal and said, "It's been a long time since I stood next to a Damm in choir." (Then he shared his Oreos with me. Jim's an all-around good guy.)
Jim and Steve were in choir together. Steve sang with our choir until his first hospitalization, in the days before we knew for certain there was a brain tumor.
Surrounding Jim and Cooper are children I've taught off and on for years in Sunday school and Vacation Bible School.
Directing that choir is Pastor Debbie Chapman, an ordained minister and gifted musician who ministered to Steve during some of his darkest days.
Not pictured is Grant Dermody, who is the accompanist on this trip. His family is our family. His sister, Haley (who celebrates her birthday today!), was our trusted summer sitter for four summers in a row.
Holy Covenant UMC has been my church home for 15 years.
Gracious, there is nothing like listening to your almost-14-year-old son sing from the altar of the place you call home, standing next to a friend who once sang with Steve, surrounded by other children I love, directed by a graceful friend, accompanied by a talented young man, sitting next to family.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
-- Psalm 98:4