So, yesterday (Sunday) I had the day off work, which was good--it was the day of the church picnic, but more important it was the farewell to our pastor and his wife (also a minister.) Two lovely, decent people.
We belong to a small church, an American Baptist congregation, and Rev. Jack has been the pastor for 16 years. Our eldest daughter went to Montessori kindergarten in a space rented by the church, and one day while I was working Miz Bubs took the kids there, back in 93 or 94. She came back and suggested I might like the place. I did, and we've been members of the church since then.
I've struggled with my faith for years, and my sense of worth as a moral human being. Rev Jack and Rev Lynn helped me more than I've ever told them. They move away later this month, and I'm working on a thank you letter. I decided a while ago that, when I have something good to say about someone, I'm going to damn well try and tell them. I'm still working on that.
It was important to be at church Sunday. But, life doesn't hold still for any one person's special moment: Hannah had a birthday party to attend Saturday night, ending at noon Sunday. I had my work hours changed on short notice and worked until 2am Saturday night. Nora had her boyfriend's high school graduation at noon. Miz Bubs had to work at the library at 1pm. SO...Miz Bubs, Nora, Nora's friend and I went to church at 10:30am. At noon, Nora left just as the service was ending to be picked up by her boyfriend's folks. I went and picked up Hannah. Hannah needed to freshen up (God forbid she go straight from a sleepover to a picnic without changing clothes, and she insisted that we never told her about the picnic, which is nonsense) so I got to drive her home and then back to church. I got to wolf down some food and briefly say hi to Miz Bubs before she left for work. Whew.
As it turns out, I wasn't the only one who got all teary during the service. Miz Bubs used to babysit the minister's daughter, for a few years, since she was just a year older than Hannah. They were like sisters, but then they had a falling out a few years ago and don't speak now. Well, when Miz talked to her after church, she started crying (the girl, not Miz...yet) and both my daughters were too choked up to say "goodbye" to Jack or Lynn. I ran into the girls former piano teacher, who moved back to Wisconsin to care for two parents with terminal cancer. I had at least 5 conversations with other parents who all remarked how much all our children had grown. Rev Lynn always did a children's time during the service, and this was the last one--seeing all those kids up there, and all the changes that they represented, and seeing Jack and Lynn leaving, was too much for all of us.
We had fallen away from regular church attendance a few years ago, and had just been making an effort to attend during the past year. We were in the process of reconnecting with our church, and I've been experiencing some kind of reawakening of my own faith that began with my trip to New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina. I know something in me has changed, profoundly, but I'm not sure what it is yet or where it will push me. My daughters, who had both fallen away from church attendance, were also coming around. The ministry of Jack and Lynn was a big part of those positive changes, and we all feel...I don't know...so sad, that just as we were coming back, they're leaving. One thing I noticed though, was all the people at the picnic talking, and people reaching out to each other, our ties to one another becoming tangibly stronger even as we stood around clutching our paper plates and cups. I think Jack and Lynn should be very, very proud of their work in building our faith community.
Nora summed up her experience of the day when I picked her up later that afternoon. She said that, between the departure of Jack and Lynn, who've known her for 13 years, and the graduation of her boyfriend, her childhood is over.
Later that afternoon, after we all got home, we went to visit Miz Bubs' niece (they're more like cousins, they're only a few years apart) and husband. When we got their, my bride's oldest brother was there too, which was a wonderful surprise. I talk to my brothers a couple times a week, and to my mom nearly every day, so I take communication for granted. Miz Bubs comes from a family that is, to put it mildly, challenged in the ability to stay in contact with each other. Not that they don't like each other, they love each other deeply, and on a level that needs no words. Which is a good thing, because they don't talk to each other. They can go months without so much as a phone call. But I sense now that even that is changing. It seems like even Miz Bubs' family is reaching out and wanting to make that vital connection to each other.
We finally got home around 9:30, exhausted. We talked about church and life and growing up all the way home in the car.
There is so much coming down the road. I know most of it's good, and even the stuff that's hard will be good in the long run. But it feels really odd, almost to the point of light-headedness, to contemplate all the changes that are in store for us, and all those changes that have already passed.