My family always sat on the right side of our Church.
We were usually a third of the way back from the altar in front of the lectern from which my dad was often a reader. A few pews ahead were always Peg and her husband Paul — a man who was visually impaired, but whose voice I loved to hear echoing off the stained glass windows with a force that made me wonder if he could actually see Jesus standing in front of him.
We rarely missed a Sunday.
Some masses my head was in the clouds and I ran my hand down the edge of the curvy pew over and over while thinking about kickball games and popsicles. Other times, my sister and I spent the majority of the time whisper-fighting while my mom motioned to us to get our eyes back in the hymnal. And on some Sundays, I could feel every lyric from every hymn and every line from every Gospel run straight through my eight-year-old veins as I connected my spirit with Jesus.
I loved communion time and it was rare to not recognize a face that walked down the aisle. I’d get nudges from my Catholic school classmates, waves from my parents’ friends and smiles from some of my teachers as they passed by my aisle seat.
When mass ended it was always another fifteen minutes of gathering. Sweet little old ladies would come up and ask my Mom – the Church’s secretary – questions about happenings on the parish calendar. My Dad would talk to his friends about the NFL games later that day. I would chat with my best friend about what was going on in school in the upcoming week.
In our small town, that Church was and IS – for many of us – our second home… where community lives and support is given and received.
And when I left for college, that Church was the place I got re-centered when I came back to visit. That Church was where they wheeled my Grandfather’s flag-draped casket over which I delivered a eulogy. That Church was where I’d exchange vows with my soulmate. That Church was why I traveled across state lines so two of my babies could be baptized there.
That Church is where I bring my kids when we are home to visit Nana and Papa and where I watch my son sled-ride his hand down the end of that pew with his head in the clouds the way I used to.