Saint Findlay by Doug Dornhecker

(Editor’s Note: I’ve held on to this piece since September 2010 waiting for the right time to run it. Findlay is the personification of certain ideals, says Doug. “I arbitrarily made her a woman, but she could just as easily be portrayed as a man or as transgendered. The idea of her being a woman worked for me, and it fit with her being a long- lived semi-recluse who found new life and liberty at the very point of being declared terminally ill. So I just made her up and found myself liking her very much. Her ‘song’ you'll recognize from Debra Peevey’s words in a letter sent for the Centennial Celebration.” Both Doug and Debra have given us permission to print. May it take its place in our historical documents!)

Born in 1907 in a rented hall on Rainier Avenue near Orcas Street in what was then a thinly-settled area south of Seattle, Washington, St. Findlay was a beautiful, although somewhat under-sized baby who grew into awkward childhood, known to the other members of her community simply by her first and last names: Findlay Church.

She knew laughter and tears. She loved to eat, to read, to sing. She did her lessons, but never considered academic pursuits to be her greatest interest. What she really loved was music. She loved the rhythm of it. The melody of it. The harmony of it. The bass notes and the high flutes and the pure intensity of children’s voices along with the calm whispers of the aged. She loved the way a whole group of people could be united in one song. But her life had other expectations, and she satisfied her love of music by quietly humming.

She grew to respectable adulthood, and although she was occasionally courted, and she herself occasionally flirted with smiling eyes, she never married, preferring to live her life in careful attention to each day’s duties, reaching out, whenever some immediate need presented itself, in quiet service to others.

As she passed her 75th birthday, and friends and family members began to die, St. Findlay came to face her own mortality as a pressing reality. Her physicians encouraged her to sell her property and move into some kind of hospice care. But a very few of her closest friends saw something in her eyes and in her heart that led them to say, “Yes, dear Findlay, you are old and tired, but you have a song that only you are brave (and crazy) enough to sing—a song of marvelous harmony and sincere welcome. Before you die, you should try to sing that song.

Some prominent members of the community claimed that the only music that mattered were the songs everyone had always sung and already knew. But one Sunday morning, Findlay Church stood up and sang her song—all thirteen verses: 

Have faith. 
Have courage. 
Trust me. 
Keep going. 
Stand up. 
Speak out. 
Love more. 
Sing louder. 
Know ME.
I AM.
Sing Now.
Be strong.
Be Yes!

To this very day, there are people who drive from miles around just to hear St. Findlay sing her song. She’s more than a hundred years old now, but people claim her voice only gets sweeter and stronger with every passing day.