It’s been a month of Sundays now, and the four of them collectively have been a serious roller coaster ride in church.
I was scared the weekend mom was admitted to the hospital. I stood beside BrightSide, drawing strength from him, sniffling through my tears as we prayed.
I was wrecked the weekend mom was moved to the Hospice Home. I leaned on BrightSide, letting him hold me up as my voice left me. Prayers and songs washed over me while I dissolved in tears. There was no prayer I could get through, no song I could sing beyond the first phrase, so I let my community worship for me.
Services were snowed out the weekend mom died. I curled into a cocoon of blankets on Sunday while BrightSide took the kids sledding. I tried to sleep my grief away.
And then there was last weekend.
By last Sunday I’d survived mom’s death and then her funeral. I’d alternated between crying buckets of tears and feeling adrift – it was pretty much a toss up where you’d find me at any given moment. I knew there was no way I’d be able to sing with the Praise Team for the service, so our family left for church together that morning.
And for the first time in weeks, I did okay. I could focus on the prayers and sing the songs without feeling like my heart was tearing wide open. It felt like progress.
In a terrific case of crappy timing, BrightSide was scheduled to teach Sunday School that day. We attend a service that typically runs right up to and sometimes beyond the start time for Sunday School, something we usually work around fairly easily. But, seeing as BrightSide was actually leading last week’s class, he kind of had to be there on time.
So the kids left with their Sunday School teacher, and BrightSide slipped out so he’d be settled in our classroom a little early. Just after that it came time for community prayers.
So there I was, sitting all alone in my row, when Preacher Ray looked directly at me and told the congregation to keep me in their prayers since I’d lost my mom that week. That he just went through this experience himself a few years ago and it’s a terrible time, a no man’s land when you feel horribly lost, and that very few people understand what this is like until they’ve gone through it themselves.
Then he asked everyone to reach out to me before leaving to give me a hug and let me know that they’re walking beside me while I go through this.
I’d really kept it together that day. It was the first week I could actually sing along without crying, but after that prayer request my quiet sniffling started.
I pulled myself to my feet for the final song, holding onto the back of the chair in front of me for support. It was a beautiful arrangement of “Amazing Grace” by Chris Tomlin. The music began, and I started to realize I might not make it.
I managed to hold it together – with just a bit of voice cracking – up until the last refrain. That was when the lyrics “My chains are gone. I’ve been set free.” hit me and the real crying started. I was thinking about how mom had finally been set free from her pain and suffering, and then I officially moved beyond sniffles. Now we were talking big time crying.
I bowed my head and tried to breathe while big, fat tears rolled down my cheeks, but when one of them splattered the floor by my feet that was it, game over. I moved out of crying and into sobbing – big, ugly, shoulder shaking sobs.
And bless it if I wasn’t standing there all alone for this train wreck.
But then the service ended and people started coming up to hug me. People I knew and ones I didn’t, people with tears of their own or words of support or just offering a simple hug. I was a RED HOT MESS of running eyeliner and sniffliness, but I finally just said whatever because these are my people. They actually know who I am and care what I’m going through, and isn’t that what church is supposed to be about?
Preacher Ray asked our church family to reach out and they showed up, offering me all the love and support they had to give. And I simply accepted it, which in truth is a pretty big step for me. What a gift.