The Pleasure Was All Mine

Months ago, an old classmate of mine asked me if I would sing at her wedding.   My schedule permitted, so a few weeks ago I made the trip to my home town in Upstate New York.  The wedding happened to be at the church in which I was raised, but hadn’t visited in twenty plus years.

I showed up for the rehearsal the evening before and entered the sanctuary. Before I could fully take in the (smaller-than I remember) chapel, lined with stained glass, I was momentarily paralyzed by the familiar smell of hardwood before continuing down the center aisle to the organist.  I chatted with her distractedly about the key of The Lord’s Prayer.

“Any is fine. I’ll follow you.”  I said, gazing over the empty pews.

The rehearsal commenced, and I sung during the mock communion, looking out into one of the pews to the left.

There he was.

Blonde head next to my Mother’s brunette, beaming down at his five blonde babies, arm draped around daughter number four.

I reminded myself that this event was not in fact about me, and coming undone during this couple’s special moment would be inappropriate and self-indulgent, rehearsal or not. So, I subtly clipped some of the notes to dam the flood threatening to draw more attention than necessary.

I willed the rehearsal to end quickly so that I might steal some time alone in that pew, not ready to step outside of this delicious childhood bubble.  It had been years since I felt the weight of my Father’s arm around my shoulders and I wasn’t quite ready return to this millennium.

The sanctuary emptied and I sat there for a while, drinking all that rushed in on the scent of red oak.

My sisters often tell tales of my Father’s paranormal visits  and interventions. I love hearing them, and I certainly don’t discount them. But, either the cynicism or unceasing rattling in my head has prevented my own experiences.

Since a very vivid dream with a clear message from him shortly after his sudden death five years ago, my calls for my Dad have seemingly been received with silence.   So I have buttoned myself up and barreled through, my head out of the clouds.

I don’t know what it was exactly about St. Paul’s Episcopal church that opened a door I thought was locked. Maybe we leave behind pieces of ourselves in those places we are most joyous, like hand-prints in cement.   Or perhaps it was that in that building, the seeds of my own faith were planted.  I don’t know.

But, the following day when the newlyweds gave their profound thanks for my musical offering, I meant it when I said,

“The pleasure was all mine.”


15 responses to “The Pleasure Was All Mine

  1. Aww Em. I remember vividly when your dad passed. And now knowing that pain myself it’s such an awful club to join. When I visit the auditorium at the school my children go to, the school I went to, the school he loved..I feel him. I hear him. It sometimes brings joy and at times overwhelming sadness. I hope your time in the pew brought you joy. ❤

  2. Emily – what a beautiful piece. My father died in August 2004. He loved boxing. Shortly after his death I heard a radio report that Max Schmelling (famous boxer in the 30s) had died. I wanted to call my dad to tell him. But he was gone, and I was driving south (to Endwell, actually) on Route 81. So I shouted to him, with tears streaming down my face. These moments are precious – memories provoked by anniversaries, odors, places and people. Cherish them when they come.

  3. While my memories of your dad are limited to art class in Homer Brink, or seeing him at school events as we grew he was always seen with a smile. He was most definately there with you and still smiling. You sounded amazing at the wedding.

  4. Em, this is beautiful. Just beautiful. Made me cry…I can still smell that red oak too…

  5. Buffie Bailey Arhbal

    Long remembered by many, and always will be…Your father was a lovely man and I truly understand what those memories mean after losing my own Dad. I want to share with you that I have always been very sad that I was not there with you girls, Nick and your Mom when he passed away as my husband and I were in Morocco, my mother in law passed away the very same week. I dont know why it has always bothered me, but maybe your latest entry fills me in. He touched my life with his love for his children…for all children, maybe I was sad to lose him too.

  6. Em, we aren’t always able to hear when our calls are indeed answered. They are though. Just listen to your babies laugh. Watch them smile. When they are sharing their joy and sense of humor, your dad is there. He wouldn’t miss it for the world.


  7. Humble and so beautifully expressed Emily. Thank you.

  8. You were right about the tears Em. Even more so while reading the comments of those familiar kids, friends and spiritual leaders. We always loved you all, and it’s as if you just walked back into our soul home. Sleep and dream well. Mama Sage.

  9. I see him all the time, in each of his precious children and their babies. Thank you for this bittersweet tribute to a wonderful man…my beloved brother.

  10. Wow. Beautiful.

  11. Sincerely touched, Em. ❤ xo

  12. I always respond to every comment on my blog. I started to do that with this one, but as all of these beautiful sentiments came in, I felt like they didn’t need to be broken up with my own interjections. I have read every one of these comments, and all have brought tears to my eyes. Thank you all for sharing your stories of both my Father and your own loved ones.

  13. It was always good in that place… awesome sweet memories of our family together in St. Paul’s. That is what I pray for every day, for them (our children) to feel the same loving weighted blanket (that we had) that secures them to their roots in our loving Father. I recently had one of these streaming moments missing and remembering our dad, like Father Jim spoke of, and remembering the day he passed (we were together in Boston! UGH that was a toughy). It was the very day you posted this.

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