Church pews, looking from the end

When I was in college a new friend asked me to join the band at a local church. Actually the church didn’t have a band, he was forming one. They’d had a split, and the remnant averaged 10-15 people each Sunday. I had never been in a band, and didn’t know to play the bass guitar like he was asking, but I said yes anyway, and he taught me to play Church Music.

Amongst the membership were an older couple, probably in their 70’s. He was tall and thin, she was short and round. I don’t remember their names, though I’m sure I knew them then. I didn’t get real close with many of the members, I lived far away and only really saw them during the service.

Then one day I learned he died.

I was sad for her of course, and any family that would be missing them, but didn’t really think about it much past that. I didn’t go to the funeral, as I wasn’t family.

Days and months passed, and she sat alone on Sunday morning.

Then one Sunday during the service I got up and went to the bathroom. Out the auditorium into the foyer, where there was a small alcove, maybe 5×10 feet, with the bathroom doors in there.

As I came out of the bathroom I looked up and she was standing in the other end of the alcove. Not going into the bathroom, but backing up to the wall to lean on it. She was holding a wadded up tissue to her nose.

We locked eyes and stood there for just a second or two before she pulled her hand away from her face, and in a hoarse whisper said

“I just miss him so much!”

And then she put both fists to her eyes and started shaking with sobs.

I was overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions and my heart broke for her. I walked across the small space and put my arms around her and held her while she cried.

I thought about how hard it must be to stand there every Sunday alone. After 50 years of hearing the timbre of his voice booming out beside her while singing hymns. The warmth of his body sitting next to her on cold Sunday mornings. The quiet holding of hands while listening to the sermon.

Every minute of church would bring back those memories.

I held her for just a few minutes and then moved back. She said thank you, and I left her to compose herself as much as she wanted before going back to the service.

We never talked about it. I don’t think I ever even spoke to her again. It wasn’t long after that that I stopped going to that church.

But I like to think God put us both in that place and that time because we both needed it. She needed a hug, and I needed the impact it made on me, an impact that still makes me think about it in the night and think “I should blog this.” An impact that’s helped me deal with grieving people these last 30 years since then.


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