It was a moment, (or maybe a few moments) for me where I felt completely connected to God and to the reasons I am here in this time, in this place. We went to church for the graduation celebration. There was an awful lot going on at one time. It was Pentacost and I forgot to wear red. Well, I didn’t really “forget” but rather couldn’t find anything I felt like wearing. There were four christenings. It was the parish weekend in the mountains, AND it was a time for honoring graduates. This had been our home church for the last six years or so, but we hadn’t been here in over six months so I was a bit nervous and self-conscious coming back for this service. There are reasons why this church no longer feels like the best fit, but that is another conversation.
Suffice to say, my youngest sons are graduating and they attended Christ Church through all of middle and high school in the Episcopal Youth Community. They may not have loved it and they likely did not buy into any spiritual practices, but they did some good work while members including building and repairing residences for the poorest of the poor, being helper campers to special needs kids, gleaning sweet potatoes on farms and working with migrant farm workers. They also went on ski trips and overnights that they enjoyed. So, it was an overall beneficial thing to do and maybe they absorbed some nuggets of faith to hold onto.
There they were yesterday, donning their purple graduation gowns for the first time (though without their caps.) They wore nice shirts (borrowed from their dad) with bow ties that I tied for them. As I tied these I thought to myself, “I wonder how many more times I will get to do this?” Sometimes, unbeknownst to them (because they would be horrified) I actually inhale their scent trying to memorize it for the future.
From the cramped pew we were in, I was able to see them walk down the side aisle and file into a pew while the organ filled the church with joy. I lost it at that moment. I mean shoulders shaking, fat tears rolling down cheeks etc. I was so obviously emotional that the priest (who is also my friend) gave my hand a squeeze as she came down the aisle towards the altar. I couldn’t get my boys to make eye contact with me, but it mattered not, for I was deep in the moment on my own.
And throughout the somewhat chaotic service, I remained in that velvet place. I went through some odd thoughts of reminiscence all the way back to the painful progesterone shots I took daily in order to keep my tenuous twin pregnancy intact. I flashed through the delivery room following my first and only cesarean birth and could hear them again when they both started crying as Shep and I looked at each other in complete panic! I remembered nursing them to sleep for naps and drifting off to sleep myself while snuggled between them. I saw my adorable twins pulling their red wagon playing ambulance. It was all racing through my mind quickly.
I was flashing through my own life as well—the best and the worst of times. And suddenly, when I closed my eyes I could see God holding me in his arms and I had this momentary awareness of His ongoing presence and love. I knew that He’d been with me all along and would continue to be and that He was there when my baby sister was taken away to safety, when my mother screamed daily for help that no one could ever provide, when my father left us repeatedly to save his own sanity. And still there, when I ran away many times and spent that long night in a NYC subway car trying to figure out where to sleep at the age of 16. I knew He’d been there when I found my way to an apartment of my own where I could live in peace and then again through all the bad boyfriends to the man of my dreams with whom I remain honored to share my life. He held me so tight when I brought forth my first son in that birthing room in Texas and held my newborn’s hand for the first time and was sure it was the hand of God. (It was.) He was there when I birthed my second son in my Hampton Bays bedroom and cried with joy smelling his freshly born head still wet with dew. He’d held me tight when I struggled to birth my third son whose arm wrapped around his head made it nearly impossible to get all 10 pounds of him born and yet, there he was – perfection again! And for sure God was with me struggling all night birthing son number four who was bigger still, and whom I fell madly in love with in my Southampton bedroom as his three brothers watched in awe. And then, He held and rocked me weeping for the years after that child died and left me completely bereft. This was God’s biggest challenge with me, but He loved me through it. And though I lost my way to Him at the time, He never left my side. He’s been with me and with my sister during her frightening and life threatening disease these last few years for sure.
So, there I stood in church glowing with pride that my sons number five and six were about to end a chapter in their lives and in mine. They have been my greatest blessing of light and as well, my biggest challenge to usher through these 14 years of school. It was never easy and yet, all the difficulties can melt away in these moments of love and bursting pride. They are both simply beautiful and magnificent human beings. They are perfect, strong, smart, loving men. It has been my greatest honor to raise them while being held in God’s tender love, without whom I could never have made it this far. In that one moment in church, I was reminded of this and it all seemed real and tangible and as sweet, kind, and merciful as could be.
One need not always “believe” in God because God never stops believing in you. A dear friend told me that once I will hold it in my heart forever.
I ought to be one big puddle this Friday when my twins actually graduate as all my sons and their loving father bear witness, with me wide but teary eyed and in awe of it all. Stay tuned