Reblogged from my previous blog…. A Healing Love
Today I found the strength. I spoke.
Over the years, nearly fifty of them actually, I have attended many church services in many places. Always alone or with my kids in tow. For a time in Leslieville, Pine Lake, Morningside, Victoria, Caroline, Red deer, Frankfurt and many more were to me a place of refuge from whatever storm I was facing. Catholic, United, Nazarene, Baptist, Presbyterian, whichever was closest to me and most accessible. A safe place to go and give thanks for all I had, to be grateful.
As a child I was one of those kids trying to belong in a world that I did not fit in. But in Sunday school, church camp, teen club, vacation bible school or church services themselves I always managed to leave more calm than I went in. For a few years I went every Sunday to services, finding that I was better able to cope with whatever the current struggle facing me was.
I learned very quickly as a child that it was better to keep your faith, or interest in the church community to yourself. For a child like me, it was just another thing to be bullied about. I always went alone, never spoke of my experiences, just gathered the spiritual feeling and kept it close with my heart.
When my kids were young I took them so they could socialize with other kids often teaching their classes. I sent them off to the same summer camp I had gone to, run by the United Church, Kasota East at Gull Lake. They went every summer, whitewater canoeing, fishing, onsite in cabins, dinosaur themes and much more. They came home smiling, new friends were made and best of all they were learning the calming effect church could have.
When my daughter died, more than a dozen years ago now, it was several years before I could even think about attending a Sunday service again. It did not matter which church, or where it was, from my seat all I could see was her casket at the front, the pain was just too much. But, through it all I kept my faith, prayed privately, read scripture, attended when I felt strong enough to and meditated often.
With my move back to Alberta last summer I tentatively set foot back into one of the churches I had attended many years ago. In fact the same church that we had held the funeral services at for my daughter. On more than one occasion I found myself sitting near the back, silently internalizing the sermon, songs and listening attentively to everything and everyone. Then leaving quietly before anyone approached me to chat. As I sat there I silently hoped and prayed I would not see, encounter or have to talk to anyone I knew. I simply was drawn there.
Upon waking this morning I knew I was going to attend the service at St Andrews. I went in quietly, sat near the back and opened my bible to read the scripture from the service bulletin. Reverend Ross Smilie began the service, my emotions began to swirl and I was feeling nauseaous and dizzy. He had spoken at my daughters funeral. As everything came rushing back, the memories, the pain and the feeling of tremendous loss. My eyes watered, tears were beginning. I closed my eyes, bowed my head and listened to the words of encouragement in the sermon.
Two lovely ladies were welcomed to the front to sing for the second time in the service. I watched them, feeling a sense of overwhelming gratitude for sharing their talent. They introduced the song they would next sing, Amazing Grace. My heart was thumping so loud, my body was tense, it was one of the funeral songs and a favorite of mine since I was a child. As they sang I felt a sense of peace come over me.
“Deep Waters” was today’s sermon. The minister was speaking about how each of us has a different challenge, something that may seem insurmountable and yet some conquer and win. He invited the congregation up to light a candle and mention their personal “deep water”. It was then, with my stomach in knots and my whole body tense, that I rose and walked to the front and lit a candle. I did not say much, “choosing to live when my daughter died”, but those words affected many. As I walked back to my seat at the back, I noticed many people with tissues dabbing tears away.
It took a bit, but I finally calmed enough, wiped my tears and facing forward participated in the rest of the service. As the service came to a close I stood to leave and was greeted by friends I had not seen in more than a decade and hugged by strangers. But the words from the minister at the door, “that was very brave to speak”, and the hug he gave me meant the world to me.