I was visiting another church, and at the end of the service a young-ish couple got up to make a stewardship presentation. They talked about how much the church means to them, and about how involved they are in the church and in its associated school which their three elementary-grade aged children attend. They were attractive and energetic and articulate, and bubbling over with the general goodness of life and their joy in their family and church.
It was pretty painful to watch, if you happened to be me.
I used to be that mother and my family used to be that family. It was hard to watch them as the person I am now. It was hard to think about myself having made similarly enthusiastic presentations in oblivion to their possible effects. It is hard to think about ministry and how to conduct church services in which the pews are filled with people experiencing all kinds of hardships as well as all kinds of joys.
After they stepped down, we sang the last hymn, and then it was time to leave. I was pretty near the front of the very large sanctuary and I wasn't in a hurry, so as I reached the back, few people were left. But among those who were still there was a small group in one pew: a young girl sobbing into the lap of the woman next to her, another girl about her age curled up in a man's embrace, and a couple of other adults looking fairly dazed and disconnected.
I felt as if I should understand the little scene playing out before me, but there was no reason that I would. And then I thought: I wonder if that's the family of the woman who died in a car accident a few weeks ago, leaving twin daughters behind.
If it was ~ how excruciating it must have been for those girls, to see another mother from their school laughing and talking about all the things that she does with her children. All the things their mother will never again do with them. To see their classmates smiling and waving at the congregation. It was hard for me and I am all grown up and I have had some time.
I wanted to stop and say, I know. I know what it's like to lose your mother in an automobile accident. I know what it's like to grow up without a mother. But of course, I didn't, because I didn't know anything at all about the family sitting there and, even if they were who I think they were, I am a complete stranger to them. But I do think about the family I know of, and pray for them often.
And then I drove home, and thought about a conversation my daughter and I had had earlier in the day, in which she had poured out some frustrations to me and had then begun to talk with delight about something else. And I thought about what it is like not to have those conversations with your mother. Not even to know such conversations exist until you have a daughter of your own.
I hope those girls have daughters someday.
I hope they get to wave good-bye as I did today, to a 22-year-old woman sporting a bright pink wig, off to meet a friend at her Montessori school's Halloween party, eight years after she last attended that party as a student. I hope they get to live as mothers the lives they are missing out on as daughters.
I hope they can someday find a way to be in church, filled with peace rather than with sorrow.
I hope I can, too.
Cross posted at Desert Year.