I Forgot the Words

I forgot the words. 

Singing in front of an audience of one hundred people, I forgot the words.

It’s not like I was hiding amidst the alto section of the church choir. No. I stood in the front of the sanctuary, my lone self, belting out a solo.

A solo that was the last musical selection before the flower girl, the attendants, and the bride walked down the aisle.

For the life of me, I don’t know why my dear friend asked me to sing at her wedding. I would gladly have cut the cake! But she liked my voice and convinced me it was a wonderful way to help celebrate her special day.

Oh, man. Okay.

The song was an old hymn, perfect for my low-range voice. However, growing up in a nondenominational contemporary church, I never even cracked a hymnal. Our stage was filled with drums, electric guitars, and praise songs off the local Christian radio station. The challenge of learning an unknown song to perform by memory caused my skin to itch. But I had plenty of time to work on it. So it would be fine.

Only, life happened.

The week before the wedding, I landed myself in the ER, causing me not just to miss work, but also the last rehearsal with the pianist. My body was tired, and my brain was foggy.

It’s fine. It’s totally fine. The programs were printed. The show must go on. I truly wanted to do this for my friend. And in spite of missing the final practice, by this point in the pre-wedding days, I had the song down and felt good about it.

I just had one little issue with the key change.

I could pull it off, I simply had to concentrate to get through it. No problem.

Skip to the wedding day.

Standing in a picturesque chapel, surrounded by guests, I nailed that key change.


And then I forgot the next line.

Why? Because I was so excited I hit the key change, that I wasn’t anticipating the next measure of music.

The five alarm bells clanging in my head clashed with the reverent song. What do I do?!? WHAT DO I DO?!?

What do you do when you’re singing a hymn and forget the words? Simple.

Make it rhyme and make it about Jesus.

Completely rewriting the next two lines of the song, I prayed the church’s low lighting hid my flushed face. While I held the final note of my made-up version, the true-to-life words entered my muddled brain, and I continued the hymn as it was originally intended.

I credit this to the movie The Sound of Music. Fräulein Maria and Do-Rey-Me-Fa-So-La-Ti taught me to sing the notes and make them rhyme. 

Without making eye contact with anyone in the audience, I finished the song. Thank goodness I only had to walk my shaking body three feet to my seat on the front pew.

I did it. It wasn’t perfect. It certainly wasn’t the way I pictured it would go. But I adjusted, pushed through, and finished strong. 

Sometimes life does this, doesn’t it? We’re humming along and something throws us off track, changing the trajectory of our day.

  • We run late to an appointment, only to discover our car has a flat tire.
  • We get a day to relax, but instead have to schedule an emergency root canal.
  • A fabulous date night is planned, but the sitter calls in sick right before she is to arrive.

I don’t know about you, but my expectations become overly powerful. When something doesn’t go the way I think it should go, I can view that scenario as a total loss. Ugh! Not a great mind-set.

But what if we take a deep breath? Adjust? Make up some words? I’m not saying we should run over our feelings like a Mack Truck. However, once we push past the emotion stuff, how can we adapt?

Are there Little Saves we can grab hold of that would redeem our circumstance? Bless others? Maybe even bless us?

  • Not only do we get to read a great book on our smart phones while waiting for AAA, we can also encourage the tire guy who worked on our car in the heat of the summer.
  • We can walk into the dentist office, ask the staff members how they are doing, and jokingly (or not) request a “Good Patient” sticker. Post root-canal, we can devour a chocolate shake in front of our favorite Netflix binge-watching show.
  • We can throw a blanket down on the floor and enjoy delivered pizza while watching a sentimental movie with our spouse. (Or, a shoot-em-up because we love our spouse so much, we do that kind of thing for them. Just me?)

Back to the wedding … To my great relief, the bride didn’t know I forgot the words and, after the ceremony, she was more than gracious to me in light of my temporary memory lapse. It wasn’t a total loss. I was still able to celebrate her. And with the help of a Little Save, I finished strong.


What about you?

Is there a time recently when you’ve had to make up the words? I’d love to hear your story!