I am thankful for God.
You give me a better way to live, so I live as you want me to.
– 2 Samuel 22:37
When I entered the side of the church, I noticed there was no Holy water. I knew the dispenser was at the front, so I pulled out the inner font to get a refill. I had plenty of time to go back and forth before other parishioners arrived.
At the entrance, I turned my attention to the Holy water vessel in the corner. I pushed the button but the spout was bone dry. I turned to our Pastor, also in the vestibule, readying the other celebrants. He must have seen my unknowing expression, and said, “Let’s take care of that right now. Go to the sacristy and find a bucket. Bring me some water to fill it up.”
I’ve not spent much time in the sacristy and didn’t remember seeing any buckets. Regardless, I headed back into the church to help address what I interpreted as a religious crisis.
Now in the sacristy, I saw songbooks to my left and a closet of robes on the right. The sink was straight ahead but there were no buckets. I spun around: a cross, a bookshelf, a wastebasket, Ahh! a big green watering can.I filled it as fast as the faucet would allow.
I walked as calmly as I could, back down the aisle of pews, with my creative plastic salvation.
I filled the stainless steel vessel and Father approved by saying, “Now go get a couple more of those.”
Back in the sacristy, I hurriedly focused more on filling the green watering can than which way my water spout was tipped. At the half full mark, I realized I was spilling water all over the counter. I reached for the first thing I saw and wiped up my mess with a crisp white piece of linen that was probably already blessed for another occasion.
Knowing the error of my ways, I walked as solemnly as I could, past all the pews filling with parishioners.
I added the contents of my second watering can to the Holy water vessel. Father peeked in and said, “One more should do it.”
The pressure! I couldn’t imagine how Moses or the apostles felt being spoken to by God. I was sweating unholy bullets just trying to fill a water vessel for the local Pastor.
I returned to the sacristy a third time without incident.
Until I started to walk back. The woman that cares for the altar was in the first pew. She had seen my mission from the start, stopped me and said, “We use that for the plants. We put Miracle Grow in there, ‘ya know.”
My heart immediately sank. I wasn’t even done yet and had also slopped up one of her linens in the process. I smiled at her with no answers, or options, and continued past everyone in the church.
I poured my last full watering can into the Holy water receptacle. Father readied to give a quick blessing while I considered what the woman said to me.
– Nobody will be drinking it.
– Father was aware of my bucket choice.
– We resolved the situation in record time.
After the blessing, I put the stainless steel cover back on top of the Holy water dispensary. I refilled the font insert and replaced it at the side of the church. I considered how Holy water renews faith. Some believe it also repels evil. Maybe this batch would even help miracles grow?
If someone says, “I love God”, but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?
Photo credit: Wikipedia
On the way to your funeral, I wondered if there was more I could have done? We’d talked and had some nice moments these last few years but the adrenal cancer took you quickly. Did I do enough these final weeks? Were you in pain with that labored breathing? I was thinking too much as I drove. I turned on the radio to quiet my thoughts and help let you go.
A song started that I’d never heard before that moment. Kenny Chesney explained with Better Boat. I felt like I had some answers and started to cry.
I don’t even listen to country music though; why was my radio on that station?
I changed the setting back to soft rock and continued driving West. I smiled into my rear view as I listened to the lyrics of Stairway to Heaven. “There walks a lady who shines white light.” It did make me wonder…
Of course you bought your way to heaven. You were a sweet, compassionate woman. I knew you were headed to the pearly gates, despite any of those feisty teenage stories you shared. These were my thoughts as I recognized the new song. The Man, Portugal, was singing and I laughed out loud when I remembered you were a teenager in 1966. Feel It Still explained you were a “rebel just for kicks”. You and I sang our way into the Funeral Home parking lot.
Your sense of humor was alive and well as I went in to say goodbye.
Your brother and his family were all there. Your cousins were by your side, Diane greeted us and your co-workers lined the room, spanning your years of service. The priest spoke about the volunteering you did in your retirement. The service was sweet and full of camaraderie.
But I guess you knew all that, since you were there.
We went to our cars to await the drive to the cathedral and cemetery. I settled into my vehicle and turned the radio back on. Pretty Mama was the celebratory song while waiting in the line of cars. I hoped you would dance with your Daddy. God would take your hand now.
Enough was enough though. They carried you out and you were now in the vehicle in front of us. There was no DJ with a response to that.
I shut off the radio and pushed in one of my own CD’s to drown out where we were headed. I’d forgotten that my car CD was Rock-and-Roll – my KISS CD. Thinking it may not be appropriate, I almost pushed it back out. Almost. It was a very fitting solo. Paul Stanley sang Goodbye all the way to your final mass.
You were there, in your old neighborhood, that whole morning. I believe it. God speaks to us in so many ways.
I know now that there wasn’t more I could have done. I’d listened. That was enough. Thank you for letting me hear your final play list.
My life changed after using the last Q-tip Monday night. Sincerely. I planned to pick up a new box on Tuesday once I finished at the library. The pharmacy was right next door but I managed to forget. On Wednesday, I didn’t think about the Q-tips until I climbed out of the shower that night. Frustrated I muttered, “Oh God! …Let me remember cotton swabs next time I’m out?!” I put on my pajamas and wrote ‘Qtips’ on our refrigerator shopping list.
Thursday was my birthday, so my focus was certainly not on Q-tips or any other kind of cotton swab. I readied for work, caught the train to Boston and bought munchkins for our office. Nobody knew it was my birthday and the morning went by slowly. At noon, I decided to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and take a walk.
The tourists were on the Freedom Trail and the office workers were sitting down to cafe lunches or walking back to buildings with their to-go sacks. I walked with a fast stride, smelled the aromas and listened to the sounds of the city. I watched all the people but saw the homeless. How hard is it for them to watch the feeding frenzy?
The rest of the story that follows is not an event I would typically discuss; moments that happen in my Christian life are between myself and God. However, I feel obligated to spread these special words because I think God works in mysterious and beautiful ways.
I passed many storefronts at a quick pace.
Until I didn’t.
My stride slowed and uncontrollably stopped. I was suddenly standing in front of a very crippled man in his wheelchair. The sensation didn’t scare me and I was not afraid to be with this helpless person. I wanted to assist but didn’t know how. I do know not to give money in the streets. There is a shrine, a soup kitchen and a shelter nearby.
I found myself saying words i hadn’t even formed in my mind yet:
“What can I help you with today?”, as I bent over his chair.
His response was slow, labored and garbled. I didn’t understand anything that he was straining so hard to express.
My soul bled for him as I looked to his hands for some aided expression.
They were twisted and fist-like with long, dirty nails.
They grabbed my heart.
“I am sorry, tell me again.”, now I had to know.
He tried once more, working hard to form lips and sound.
I turned my ear toward him and thought I heard words.
Trying to match a food with what I thought I heard, I questioned, “Chips?! You want potato chips?” I turned back to face him, hoping to see acknowledgement in his eyes.
They were covered with black sunglasses; it was a beautiful sunny day.
Don’t let me give up, I thought. This is my fellow human being. He turned his head, left and right and then directly at me.
A definite but pleading “No.” registered in his mouth and my ears.
I had his lunch request all wrong, didn’t know what else to do, and then, at that very defeated moment, I heard his continued mumble as clear as a foggy day.
He spoke more slowly. “No, Q-tips.” and low but distinct, “I need Q-tips.”
I froze. In elation. For so many reasons.
“Of course. You know what?”, I was so happy and continued, “I need Q-tips too. I’ll buy some for both of us.”
It was as easy as the nearby CVS and the cosmetics aisle. I was overjoyed that I’d waited to understand. Coming together may have been God’s plan all along? My spiritual life changed because remembering new Q-tips helped me not to hear, but to see, in a whole new way.
Happy Birthday to me.
Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.
– 1 Peter 4:10
Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17
You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
– Galatians 5:13
The Lord says, “This is My agreement with these people: My spirit and My words that I give you will never leave you or your children or your grandchildren, now and forever. “