Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Eternal Love and Waterproof Mascara

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Eternal Love and Waterproof Mascara

We made it to church today. I worked out quickly and showered, and then our whole family ran frantically around the house, wet from the shower and in different, very shocking stages of dress. We would barely make it on time. It turns out the clothing I wore to church last time is now the size of a circus tent on my new body. Today was the very first day I was not upset about being late for anything.

We haven't been to church in some time, but we are trying to get there more often. Although I consider myself spiritual, I am definitely not a typically "churchy" person and often struggle with the concept of organized religion for a variety of reasons, none of which I will go into here, but I am fairly comfortable attending the church I grew up in when I go. I feel it is extremely important Erik feels loved and accepted, and Brian and I both agree church will be important as he grows. Who knows? Maybe I'll learn something along the way.

We dropped Erik off in the nursery and received an electronic pager that would summon us back to the nursery if necessary. We were ushered to an empty space in a pew, and the pastor instructed the congregation to learn the names of those around us. This is normally a nightmare for me, but my new self-confidence has made things much easier. I exchanged pleasantries with the woman next to me and listened as the service began, noting the satiny banner behind the altar was the same one I had picked as the backdrop the day we were married over six years ago. It features a brilliant, electric blue cross. My favorite color. The pastor began to walk the width of the stage and get himself into the spirit of preaching. I thought, dangit, this new guy gets me every time, but surely this time would be different. There would be no talk or videos of the disabled, hymns with seemingly hidden personal meanings, or messages that seemed to be meant for me and me alone. Surely God is too busy to send me these messages each time I attend church these days. I have sat through many sermons in that same sanctuary, largely unaffected but appropriately prayerful, and walked out completely dry-eyed with a cookie in my hand. Hundreds of times. Today would be no different.

We attend the more contemporary service--not because we prefer it, necessarily, but because it is early. They tend to play more modern Christian music, a lot of which I don't necessarily care for but I am warming up to. As I attempted not to be distracted by the one very passionate, animated woman in the front row dancing and gyrating unlike any other Presbyterian I know, I realized there was an old hymn playing. One of my grandfather's favorites. "How Great Thou Art." Okay, I thought, that's a little strange during this service. I enjoyed the warm fuzzy and sang very quietly so as not to alarm the lady standing next to me with my desperate search for the correct octave.

And then the sermon began. The pastor began talking of the story "Eternal Love" by Karen Bender. He explained the story as being about parents of a developmentally disabled daughter in her 30s who finds love with a developmentally disabled man. It wasn't so much about the love between the two but more about the mother and her relationship with her child. You see, it was her job for years to care for her child, and she set her marriage and even her personal needs aside for years. Although her husband was woefully neglected, he patiently waited for her to come back to him. She felt off balance because she would no longer feel like she had control of what happened to her daughter. She couldn't imagine what she would do if she had to let go.

You have got to be freaking kidding me.

It wasn't long before I realized I was going to cry. I can cry quietly until my nose decides to emit rivers of snot, after which it sounds as if I am greedily consuming a 44-ounce cherry Slurpee. When I saw the woman on the other side of Brian crying even harder than I was, it only made matters worse. By the time the pastor reached the part of the story about the new bride running to her parents' hotel room for her mother's reassurance on the wedding night, I was a complete mess. The mother reassured her daughter that she had their unconditional love and approval and then watched her go happily back to the groom. She then allowed her own husband to hold her and comfort her for the first time in years.

Oh, God.

This is the point when the lovely woman next to me in the peach blouse plucked a Kleenex from the pocket pack in her purse and offered it to me. I accepted it gratefully, and as I blew my nose, I silently granted her permission to refrain from holding my hand during the closing song.

I survived the service, and we headed down the hall to pick up Erik. We were told he had been taken to a private prayer room (I didn't even know we had those) because the environment was too loud and he became upset. I must have looked very alarmed, as I was instantly offered assurances he was fine. I plucked him from the arms of the girl who was holding him, and we made our way out into the sunshine, feeling a little bit more connected with each other and the world.

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Blogger Michelle said...

thank you so much for visiting my blog and for your comment. I understand what you mean about not judging - I try not to judge anyone either since I'm not in their shoes, I just feel very sad for most of the outcomes.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I would not have made it through that service without being a complete mess. In fact I barely made through reading about it. Sometimes when in those situations I feel really close to God and I know he is watching over us.

By the way what time do you have to get up to exercise. I wish I had your dedication because I still have 5 lbs of baby to take off.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Julie -- Yeah, sometimes it's pretty hard to deny there is a bigger picture I can't see right now at moments like that. I'm dense, so I get a lot of signs until I can't deny something is happening.

I exercise at about 8 a.m. with Erik playing in the room. I have done it for so long he has learned to leave me alone--until it's time to stretch, at which point it's understood I'm fair game to use as a jungle gym. It works nicely for us. I can't use my treadmill when he's awake, though.

3:45 PM  
Blogger camille said...

At times like that you feel like you are being directly spoken to and know it's not just a coincidence. I've had many moments like that during church services and now know I need to be prepared with kleenex.

5:39 AM  
Blogger All moments remembered said...

Okay Missy I need a bigger warning at the start of your post!! I will now keep tissues by the computer! WOW!! Very touching day!! I have to admit I cry every single time they start worship at church and the songs touch me. I don't go as often as I should but a person can only cry and look like a fool every so often. I love this blog today!! Thanks for making me think more.
Have a wonderful day with your precious boy!! I plan to enjoy my two as they both start school tomorrow.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Every minute counts.... said...

I have to admit that I haven't been to church lately for many of the same reasons Stacey commented on.I hate being the only one crying. Plus I feel like everyone in that church thinks I'm a basket case when I do it. It is amazing how it works when you walk in and the sermon starts and it is something like you described. I have on too many occasions thought the same've go to be freaking kidding! I know they plan the sermons out months in it ends up we go when we do...nothing short of a miracle I guess>


3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't even make it through the first hymn last week at church. Its one of the few times, if not only, where I really have to sit and think, and that has a tendency to bring on the tears.


5:38 PM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Nancy - Even though you may not be "Churchie", it sounds like God had something that HE wanted you to hear! May be that it's not just Eric who can learn something there? ~ jb///

4:26 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Whoa! Far out. It was meant to be Nancy. xoxo Heather

5:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my first time on a blog. You don't have to feel alone about being an emotional basketcase. Sometimes I have to wonder who gets more emotional, me or my wife. Even after two years we are still coming to terms with our daughter having WS. I have my own ideas about organized religion, but I do beleive that God chooses his times to speak to us and it is usually when we are farthest away and need it the most.

5:42 AM  

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