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.”