Listening to the Song

Read an excerpt from “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” by Ernest J. Gaines:


It was ’Termination Sunday. ’Termination Sunday is when you tell the church you still carrying the cross and you want meet them ’cross the River Jordan when you die. You start out singing your song. Soon as you have sung a little bit, no more than a chorus, the church joins and sings with you. You can keep your song going long as you want, if it’s a good spirity song, and the church will follow. Yoko used to sing and sing and sing: “Father, I stretch my hand to Thee, no other help I know.’ Then after you get through singing, you talk to the church little bit—tell them you still on your way—then you shake hand with everybody—you can just wave to them sitting way back there—and then you got sit down. Then somebody else get up and they do the same. But he sing a different song. Everybody got his own song. You better not sing somebody else’s song before he do or sing it better even after he do, because you might have trouble on your hand. Sometimes when I don’t feel well enough to go to church, or I want stay home and listen to the ball game, I can sit on my gallery and tell who is telling their ’Termination just listening to the song. And in the years I’ve been living on this place I’ve heard a many songs, I tell you.