“Go back to church,” she says.
She asks how long it’s been. Has Catholic guilt laid itself bare as well? Is there nothing this witch cannot see? Some days, heart and soul must be visible to the naked eye. I tell her I went to the funeral and twice after that.
She tells me she was raised in an Atheist family. She may not be a particular, recognizable religion but she does believe in a higher being. There must be. You can kill an ant but can you make one? Can you create, not grow, but create a tree, a plant, a flower, yourself and everything in between, she questions. Church and I have not been close.
There is a Mass in The Norwegian’s honor one year after his death and I attend, in the little side chapel of my behemoth spiritual building. I am surrounded by friends, Middle Chicken and her best friend. The priest gives a history lesson on fathers and sons with prostitutes; an image so comical attached to The Norwegian’s sensibilities, it elicits fits of giggles. Middle Chicken and Wordsmith Andretta are whisked back to the days when they were shushed in this very building every Sunday.
About a month after the funeral, Baby Chicken and I made our way. We sat. The music boomed and she began to weep. She went to the ladies room returning seemingly composed. The priest began his aisle descent and her small body shook violently. I told her, “We can leave if we must.” She exited the building. I followed her, heart heavy with her sadness. She did not attend the prostitution Mass the following year.
If I am truthful, my last meaningful foray into the building was the funeral. Religion lost its guidepost for me. The last thing I asked of God was in the woods on a sunny day. I begged for my husband’s life. I begged God to choose someone else. Someone old. Someone very ill. Someone so enamored with heaven they actually were eager to go.
After that, the place that once offered solace became just a building.
Advisor Girl demands I go–this weekend. Go. She instructs me to perform a specific random act, an anonymous act, while I am there and report back how I feel. I do as instructed.
Saturday evening Mass is filled with older people; always. They are kind and twinkly eyed. They are this night as well. Except for the older gentlemen next to me, who, truth be told, is a creeper. His open stare makes me consider food on my face, an unzipped zipper or errant toilet paper affixed to a shoe. Nope. He’s just a creeper. I wish him peace and he holds my hand in his for far too long. I give my weak amusement smile and move away a smidge.
I perform the act The Fixer instructed and she is correct. Exhilaration rushes through me. I am happily reminded of the purpose of praise and thanks.
The priest talks of perspective when earthly beings believe we are losing. We are actually winning–in our strife, in our sadness and in our service to each other.
I will ask her when I next see her the purpose of the exercise. My guess is getting out of one’s own mind, focusing on the coming together of others in belief and kindness and rejoining a faith that was once an integral part of my existence.
Or maybe it is just to laugh that the creeper in church this night sits next to me.