Here we are living life on the edge this Christmas of 2013. That’s just the way Marty and I roll, taking chances, risking the comfort of hearth and home to find the ever elusive peace and good will.
Yea, that’s right, we did it, we did it in the face of everything, we went to church in cold and flu season. We hugged people, we touched people, we exposed ourselves to germs, and then we sterilized. It was good.
A Christmas Eve service at First Presbyterian in Waco has always been one of Marty’s favorite places to be during the holiday season. She loved the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, the familiarity, the carols, the music, the whole magilla. The strokes have not robbed her of this.
It’s a crowded service, if you want a primo spot you have to be there early, and when I say primo spot I’m saying one of the pews that will accommodate a wheelchair. We got there about an hour before the concert which precedes the actual service. There we sat, Marty in her black and red Christmas vest, me and our trusty caregiver, Nykkie, guarding our rear position in the sanctuary, watching familiar faces file in and find seats.
Before the strokes, my job on this night of all nights was to take number one and only son, Matt, to the church early and save seats for the consistently late Marty.
I must say for posterity’s sake, I hate saving seats. It involves telling people “no you can’t sit here” and disappointing perfect strangers and friends. I did it anyway, it got me there early and Marty could come when ready and we could avoid the inevitable conflict of punctuality.
I don’t do that anymore. For one, Marty brings her seat in the form of her wheelchair, for two, I’m now in charge of getting her ready and out the door so we are painfully early and there is not conflict. The one perk of being a caregiver is you get to set the schedule. Now we just have to kill an hour watching and greeting old friends and their families and playing games on our smart phones.
The service is full of music and a lot of singing familiar Christmas carols. All of the standards, most of which we can sing without the help of a hymnal, most of which evoke feelings of Christmas’ today and past, a good nostalgia a good centering of the present.
As is my habit, much to Marty’s chagrin (she told me once during the service, “Just leave me alone”. Oddly it warmed my heart) I keep a close eye on Marty. She is feeling good in spite of a treated UTI. She is sitting, head up attentive, engaged, watching people, listening and looking and really basking in the warmth of this familiar setting.
The trumpet starts, “Oh come all ye faithful”, the congregation stands and begins to sing and fills the sanctuary with music, singing in unison, singing louder than a normal hymn. There is a palpable sense of community and commonality as the voices build, as the carol progresses, “Joyful and Triumphant, O Come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.”
I look to my left at Marty at sitting in her wheelchair. She is looking at me, watching me, but singing, every word, “come and behold Him, born the King of angels, oh come let us adore him.”
And there it was, that was why we were living life on the edge, why we risked the germ factory that is any large group of people, to be with our larger group of people, to feel part of something, to feel the familiar, to feel a sense of continuity, to feel what we as humans crave, life as part of something bigger.
To the well, to the able bodied, to the sick, to the infirmed, to the challenged, being a part of a community, whatever that community might be is the great the common denominator that connects us all in spite of our very real differences. We want to be a part of life and that church on that night with those people with those songs, that is our community, our faith, our belonging.
We sang in spite of the faux danger, we went to church, we hugged and touched others because living without that community, living without the song is not really living, at least for us.