As we walk into the church, I think about the last Sunday in our church in San Francisco: how we sang the hymns and walked away as a family. How we stopped at the farmer’s market and bought ripe cherries. How we sat at Alamo Square Park and stared at the city scape. My then four-month-old slept against me and I took August’s shirt off as the cherry juice poured down his newly three-year-old chest. That’s how we said goodbye.
Today, it’s raining. Rain in a parched land feels holy, like a sending off. Chris says his mind keeps tricking him into thinking he’s in the Northeast: all that green is shocking here.
Of course, our umbrellas were packed and shipped off to California and our temporary, furnished house did not come supplied with wet weather tools. Chris is bearing a lovely black plastic trash bag. He cut holes for his sleeves. August wishes he had one too.
So, it’s a drop off kind of Sunday morning. Pull up to the front of the building, frantically open the kids’ doors and undo carseat belts. Run.
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My first day at Christ Church, I was very uncomfortable at one particular moment.
Part way through the service, after the Passing of the Peace, everyone with birthdays or anniversaries is invited to come to the front.
When I first encountered this weekly ritual, I thought: Really? It seemed quaint. It seemed cheesy.
But come they did. Couples and children. The pastor asked the kids how old they were and they answered cutely. People chuckled. It was like church in Mayberry. Then, our pastor asked us to hold out our hands, arms stretched out straight at the lives before us. We prayed out loud a blessing. I could barely raise my hand. I was not quite sure how I felt about this idea. I am always a critic first.
It’s funny how something near-dorky done in earnestness can grow on you. The more you participate, the more you move past your pose of coolness, the more freedom you find in your spirit.
This day, this last day, brings two couples to the front. Two couples in their late sixties, early seventies. Two couples who are pillars of this church. I cannot remember their names but I know them and I’m grateful for them. They announce their years of marriage: “47 years!” one couple says. “51” says the other. Everyone claps when one of the men makes a silly face and gives a thumbs up.
And when we raise our hands to their lives, I watch that same man place his hand on his friend’s shoulder beside him. Even as he is prayed for, there he is, blessing the other.
* * *
How do you say goodbye to a good, true home? I’ve been sent away with praises before. And that sending was sweet and significant and powerful for my life. But this day, with our boys in our arms, our pastor calls us up for the closing benediction.
And we are invited, with him, to hold our arms out, our hands open, to the congregation. We are invited to bless them.
And we do. With tears and with our boys in our arms, we bless them.
After, Chris pulls me in to his side, and August from the height of his father’s arms wraps his arm around me and Brooks. The four of us in this small, strange, weepy family hug. And I think, God, thank you.
God. Thank you.
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It’s Thankful Tuesday. What is your Thankful today, friend?