Okay, Jacqueline, I have an answer: What comfort, UU? Well, it’s in the good comments of good folks responding to my father’s death. People I don’t know who stop by my blog because I have UU attached to it. People who offer kind words and encouragement and hugs … lots of cyber hugs. For which I am grateful.
And then there was this: I purposely stayed away from church on Sunday because, quite honestly, I didn’t think I could, as my daughter said today “stand all that sympathy.” It seems rather odd, but I just wanted to stay away from my church community, get on with the business I needed to attend to as I focused on the service we will have for my father, and spent a few hours alone. Alone.
And then I got the phone call, from a woman at church who teaches my daughters and had heard from them about my dad. She’d skipped the service after RE and come home to fix us all a casserole. And when I got her phone call, I cried for the first time since hearing the news of my father’s death. “Oh, yes,” I remembered, “we do need to eat!” More than that, it was a visceral response to someone providing care to me, my family—them they know and them they don’t.
Could this comfort come from a different religious home, one other than UU? You betcha. What matters is that it is my home and the people there have made me theirs.
So does this constitute being fed by my faith, or being fed by my faith community? I would answer: yes. The tenets of the faith bring the people who seek and strive and wish to be a part of the arc that bends toward justice. But the faith is also the people, who show up–sometimes with casseroles.
I remember when I asked the minister what I could do for my friend Jim’s memorial service. “Can you organize the food?” he asked. My internal editor said “crap!” but my mouth said, “sure” with only the slightest grimace. This was around the same time that my father was diagnosed with the terminal cancer, so my mind was a little betwixt and between, put in charge of the food (not my A game, there) for a friend’s memorial service, while dealing with my own father’s impendng death. I did not know what to do, then finally made a series of announcements, asking people to please bring desserts or hors deouvers (this was not to be a meal, but “light refreshments”).
Nervous for a variety of reasons, I wasn’t real sure if we were going to pull this one off. Sure enough, I stood there, trying to make buckets of coffee and the food was not yet there, I started to sweat. Really. A lot. And then, some cookies came. And a cheese/meat tray. Crackers and dip. More desserts. And more. And still more. So much more, we had to put up another table for the food. People showed up to help and those who felt less connected to Jim than I (he was a mentor to me), urged me to leave the fellowship hall and be in the sanctuary for the service.
People came. They brought food. They wished to be of service and they were. And it was a moment not unlike such moments in other churches all around the world, but it was my church community, my group of people—people who, on a typical day, will argue about definitions of words like “spirit” and “covenant”—showed up, with food, with comfort.
What do we hold on to in crisis? I suppose the most tangible item for me to refer to at the moment is not the cross but the casserole. But not just the casserole, but a faith that urges me not to look toward the skies when I seek heaven, but in the eyes of the person who hands me that casserole. A faith that urges me to create heaven on earth, create the beloved community, create the place where death is neither ignored nor spoken of in terms of certainty where only speculation will do. A faith that connects me, sometimes in word, sometimes in deed, (and sometimes in casserole), with the source of us all.
Strange comfort. But comfort, indeed.