Monday, December 11, 2006

On being a church lady

When I was a kid, my mom was a "church lady" in the best sense of the term. She was active and involved and had her hand in much of what happened at church. As a result, I saw a lot of the "behind the scenes" things at church, and that stuck with me. What stuck most was those images of women working together, whether serving food or making crafts or wrangling children. Those tasks that traditionally are in the world of women.

More than half a year ago, the eldest member of our church died after a few months of poor health. His death was not a tragedy nor was it a surprise. His memorial service was, truth be told, a wonderfully fun tribute to a remarkable individual. After the service, I headed to the kitchen to help bring out the food and drinks that a small committee had organized. My involvement in this operation was marginal, but it reminded me of those days as a child, watching the women work. And I realized that now I was one of those women. That's one of those moments in which it clicks that I'm a "real" adult now. (You'd think having two kids would have done that, but not really.)

At Dana's service, there were more women, more tears, and more food. And I was more involved. The kitchen (and the classroom next door) was the location of an intricate ballet, danced by women who loved Dana. Each of us shared at least that in common. But there was so much more going on than just arranging food on platters or mulling cider. There was a feeling of support, of "it's all right to cry", of being in this together, with each woman being able to pull away for a moment, with nobody being overwhelmed with the task. The task of caring for each other as well as for our church community and the larger community of people who cared about Dana or her family, was holy. A husband came into the kitchen for a moment, and I saw him watching us, in our silent dance. He noticed that there was something special happening. "It's like being backstage at a magic show," he said, lightly. He got smiles.

The next day, back at church, back in that same kitchen, with several of the same women, the moment was different. We were just taking care of the monthly potluck. Nothing special. But I mentioned how sacred the same task had felt the previous day to a couple of the women, and they both "got" it. They understood that feeling that really evades the spoken (or written) word. That feeling for which there are no words.

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