I’ve been thinking a lot about church, lately. Church in the appointment type of church and church in the practice sense.
Your Dad and I haven’t been to church, the appointment kind, much in a while. Really since you got sick. At the time, it was safer for you not to go. For you, it was a place of a bunch of people with germs, in the moment. For me, it was a bunch of people that might give me germs that would lay in wait until I was with you, only to infect you.
And then you died…
And church, the appointment kind, didn’t seem to fill the need we had, to connect with God without just being mad. That’s really your Dad’s thing. He thinks about your death and gets mad. At cancer, at God, at the church, as an institution, that didn’t really minister to us. Our fault? Maybe. Me, it just seems like a duty that I don’t care to pick up and pack around.
Instead, we find God in the practice of church. Nature, snow, spring lightening shows, our dogs, your dogs, a hug from a loved one.
But sometimes, church, the appointment kind, does minister to me in a profound way.
A few weeks ago, your Sister/Cousin’s 2nd received her 1st Communion. She’s a rule follower, a leader, a judge and social worker, all rolled into one. And she was super excited for this milestone. She’d done the work of learning the what and the why and the how, and was excited to receive Christ in this way. So I put her appointment on my calendar and showed up to project my love into her day.
I walked into the church and saw my Bestie, your Auntie, in the back, following #5 around as she explored and demanded and asked “this?” over and over. When Mass started, we sat with the family. #5 crawled all over Aunt C, and proved that she has no whisper yet available, in her repertoire of words and actions and inflections. #4 saw me, and for some reason decided I was the one for the day. Which is crazy, because as the surly one, she usually pretty much ignores her God Mother. But she saw me and came to me and sat on my lap all through Mass. She and #5 played with my jewelry, trading necklace and bracelets. And then E played with my Apple watch, scrolling through the pictures, and scribbling in Evernote. All of this, pretty much wanting me to not help her!! Haha! So I gave her directions, which she’d follow when she thought I knew what I was doing, and ignore when she knew I didn’t, and in general, was a quiet little dictator on my lap. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had the skin rubbed off of me in this wonderful way. Through all the little girl space in my lap and next to me, I missed most of Mass, though the rhythm and cadence of the ritual was familiar, even as the “new” words, that were introduced when you were sick, are still annoying to me. But still, as always, I cried through Communion. I always cry through Communion. And as annoying as I find that, I just let myself cry. You’d think I’d remember to bring Kleenex to church.
Later that week, I had another appointment church. A memorial. The opposite end of the life spectrum, I guess. A friend’s husband, gone after a yearlong bout with thyroid cancer. This just 2 years after he came into her life and brought light to her eyes. She’d lost the light when her son died, just 3 weeks after you. You’d wanted to meet T so badly when you were so sick that last hospital stay. You were too sick, he was too sick and it just didn’t happen. And yet I know you greeted him when he joined you in the arms of the Angels.
Anyway, that church appointment was beautiful in it’s own way. A different sort of service, in a church of a different denomination, but church by appointment, still. Beautiful words, said in hopes of softening the hurt, bolstering the spirit, a video of a life that had joys and hardships aplenty, and shortened too soon. Lunch in company of another Mom of an Angel, and a Mom of a Warrior, there to support our friend, as she moved through the day in a trance of hugs and memories and words of sympathy. An appointment to grieve, though the grieving started with the diagnosis and will continue from now until forever.
Church by appointment, serving a purpose.
And I keep thinking about Church as a practice. The sacred time of driving through the mountains with your little brother, as we talk and laugh and breathe each other in. The tending to your Uncle B and Aunt J’s old dog, while we stay in their house for the night to break up the drive. She is feeble and deaf and blind and grateful for company. And your brother got to breathe in the nectar that is Salida. The snow on the mountain, the first hummingbirds at the feeder. The sun, the air, the magic of this place of the heart.
And this weekend we will come together as a large extended family to celebrate a twin graduation. Church in celebration, church in family, church in embracing these young men with love and laughter and advice and prayers of grace. There will be hugs and delight and food aplenty. We are hoping for sun, but will celebrate in the rain, or the snow, if that’s where we find ourselves. Because these rites of passage, these rituals of ceremony and celebration connect us to each other in the most profound way. A church experience, a church practice, for sure.
And then your Sister-in-Law and her hubby arrive! I’m pretty sure she’s coming to see the dogs and is happy to get to see me, too. And we plan to camp. And they will hike, and I will read and we all will nap and talk and dream a little. And the church that is my beloved mountains will feed our souls, soothe our hearts and nourish our minds.
Church in practice, extended over days. Ahhhh.
I’m thankful for church, appointment and practice. I’m thankful for your Sister/Cousin and her brood and that she includes me in their lives. I’m thankful for twin nephews, graduating and looking forward. I’m thankful for car time with your brother.
I’m thankful for today!!