We decided, my husband and I, to go to church today…our first time since the accident. Beth P., my bulldog who knows some surprises are NOT good, cautioned me: “You know they are going to read the names of the people who’ve died this year, right?” We were fairly warned.
I love my church. This became even clearer to me through the last weeks of hell. As I entered the sanctuary (Steve was in the choir loft), I was enfolded and protected by other loving bulldogs, settled into a pew among kids who knew Mark – goofy Mark who would plop down in their midst and play Legos – all of their young lives. On my left was Henry*, a 6 year old with the same sharp mind as my boy; on my right was Mia*, also 6.
I’d gotten blank paper for the kids to draw on – communion Sundays involve the whole church, and the service can be a bit long for the little ones. Henry proceeded to draw rocket ships on launching pads – the exact image imprinted on my brain the day Mark died, as I lamented everything he would not achieve…he, the aerospace engineer with a love for astrophysics…his “rocket” was just getting ready to launch. After getting embarrassed that I’d seen her drawing pictures of people kissing, Mia flipped her paper over and began drawing numerous puffy clouds. On each cloud she carefully added an angel, and in front of each angel was an easel, each bearing a portrait of a different person. I asked her about it and she said the angels had painted those pictures.
The tolling of the bells and the calling of the names was beyond devastating. How could our son’s name be among them? How is this possible, God? I believe everyone was crying.
After the service, as I tried to escape coffee hour, a grandma approached. She’s a beautiful Korean woman whose grandchildren attend Sunday school. We were cordial but had never had a real conversation. She looked into my face, tears streaming down her own, and held my hands. She kept saying “Mark, Mark”, and I thanked her for her sympathy. (Oh please let go…I’ve got to get out of here before I completely lose it) But then she corrected me: “No, I had son, same name. He died. He was 19, had heart attack.” She went on to tell me it had been 30 years since her Mark had died so suddenly. And although her English was a little bit broken, she made it clear that she NEVER forgets him for one moment, and I noted she is still standing, three decades later.